Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte is prepared to “go to war” with China over their dispute in the South China Sea, his secretary of Foreign Affairs, Alan Peter Cayetano, said Monday.
Cayetano defended Duterte from claims he was not taking enough action to prevent China from mining the natural resources from the disputed territory.
“Nobody can extract natural resources there on their own,” Cayetano said. “The president has declared that. If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea, he will go to war.”
In recent years, China has aggressively expanded its naval and coast guard presence in an attempt to stake its own territory in the face of other claimants such as Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. However, not much is known about the operational efficacy of China’s weaponry. China insists its military assets in the region are for search and rescue and research purposes, not to be used for a preemptive attack.
Duterte’s administration has faced internal criticism for his close diplomatic relations with China.
“For those who keep saying, ‘File a protest, file a protest,’ what do we mean when we said, ‘We are taking all diplomatic actions’?” Cayetano continued. “At the right time, we will prove you wrong because nothing is secret forever.”
“When we declassify all of these, once we have achieved our purposes in the future, you will see that the DFA has not fallen short in filing whatever diplomatic action, note verbale, verbal protest,” he continued. “It is not the policy of this administration to engage in megaphone or microphone diplomacy, and announce each and every action, unless announcing it is beneficial to us.”
Since assuming office in 2016, Duterte has pivoted the foreign relations of the country away from the United States and has, instead, initiated a rapprochement with China in a bid to attract additional trade, support, and investment. He has previously joked about turning the Philippines into a Chinese province.
However, Duterte has previously also taken a tough line on the issue of the South China Sea and warned China against any physical invasion of the disputed terrorists. He has since revealed that Chinese leader Xi Jinping reassured him that their military buildup is nothing to worry about.
“I would walk the extra mile to ask for peace for everybody,” he said in a speech to his military shortly after his election. “But I am sure and I guarantee to them that if they invade us, it will be bloody and we will not give it to them easily.”