MANILA, Philippines – Days before his visit to China, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would likely not dwell on Scarborough Shoal, an area in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) being claimed by both the Philippines and China.
"Huwag na muna natin pakialaman 'yang Scarborough [Shoal] kasi hindi natin kaya eh. Magalit man tayo, hangin lang. 'Di natin kaya," said Duterte on Monday, October 10, in an event with local government officials in Lamitan, Basilan.
(Let's not dwell on Scarborough Shoal because we don't have the capabilities. Even if we express anger, it will just amount to nothing. We can't back it up.)
Chinese vessels continue to harass Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal despite an international court ruling that nullified China's expansive claim over the disputed sea.
"Mag-usap muna tayo. Sabihin ko na lang na ipabalik muna 'yang mga kapatid kong Pilipinong mangingisda, tsaka mag-usap tayo," said Duterte.
(Let's talk first. I'll say for now that they should allow my brothers, Filipino fishermen, to return, then let's talk.)
Duterte said he "suspects" the Chinese government wants to "help" the Philippines.
"May duda ako na gusto nila tumulong talaga (I have a suspicion they truly want to help)," he said.
Duterte is set to visit China in mid-October, followed by a visit to Japan. He has said that once in the mainland, he would "demand" that China "give back" the fishing rights of Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea.
He has also said he would bring up the historic Hague ruling at the "proper time" when bilateral talks between the Philippines and China formally begin. (READ: Duterte to China: You can't avoid Hague ruling) – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.