MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte jokingly suggested to China that it make the Philippines part of its territory, as a province.
"Kung gusto 'nyo, gawin 'nyo na lang kaming province, parang Fujian (If you want, just make us a province, like Fujian)," said Duterte on Monday, February 19, during the anniversary of the Chinese Business Club.
"Province of Philippines, Republic of China," he added, to applause from his audience of Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
Duterte made the joke after saying Chinese President Xi Jinping himself promised not to build any structures on Scarborough Shoal.
"They assured us they will not build anything there in Scarborough Shoal," said Duterte.
"Maniwala kayo kasi 'yan ang commitment sa akin ni China. Si Xi Jinping mismo nagsabi and he's a man of honor." (Believe it because that is China's commitment to me. Xi Jinping himself said it and he's a man of honor.)
Duterte added that negotiations for joint exploration between China and the Philippines are underway, even mentioning the possible sharing scheme between the two nations.
"Kasi 'yung oil, joint (exploration) naman, 'yung pinakamarami. Two-thirds sa amin, one-third sa inyo," said the President. (Because the oil, it's joint exploration, we will have the biggest share. Two-thirds will be ours, one-third yours.)
Duterte also admitted in his speech that China is building "military bases" in the West Philippine Sea but said it would be silly for anyone to think China will use such military assets against the Philippines.
"Military bases, I must admit it, but is it intended for us? You must be joking. It's not intended for us," he said. (READ: Roque: One day, we'll thank China for artificial islands)
"It's really intended for those who China thinks will destroy them and that is America, hindi tayo kasali diyan (we aren't part of that)," said the President.
"There's negotiations for joint exploration. Can you beat that? Hayaan mo missile-missile diyan, hindi para sa atin 'yan (Just ignore the missiles there, it's not intended for us)," he added.
Duterte also downplayed China's successful bid to name 5 undersea features in Philippine Rise (Benham Rise). But he maintained that if the continental shelf is found to be resource-rich, the Philippines would claim the resources, such as oil. (READ: No bad faith on part of China in naming PH Rise features – Roque)
"If they say there is a lot of oil there, fine...Remember, that is ours. The whole of the [South] China Sea, you have already claimed it…but this Philippine Rise is ours," said Duterte.
He repeated that any future scientific research conducted by a foreign entity in Philippine Rise will have to be cleared by the military first. (READ: PH can ban China in Benham, but not other nations – Carpio)
"If the military says it's good, it can be done, I'll give you the permit," said Duterte. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.