Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made one thing clear in his July 27, 2020 State of the Nation Address.
There is not going to be a war between China and the Philippines over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
“We worked without fail to protect our rights in the South China Sea, neither beholden nor a pawn to anyone,” the President said.
Duterte continued: “We broadened the boundaries of Philippine diplomacy. We built productive ties with everyone willing to engage us on the basis of equality and mutual respect. And, we redefined our relationships with our most important partners, placing the country in a far better position to advance our interests in an evolving regional order and emerging global problems.
“Now, plenty of critics, both sides, claim about nothing has been done to retake forcefully or physically the South China Sea.
“Alam mo, unless we are prepared to go to war, I would suggest that we better just call off and treat this, I said, with diplomatic endeavors.
“China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms, we do not have it.
“So, it is simple as that. They are in possession of the property. It will remain a property of a — if you’re a lawyer, property rights.
“They are — it has nothing to do with the Philippine Laws of Property but it’s akin to — they are in possession. So what can we do? We have to go to war and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can, but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan, sabihin ko sa inyo. And I’m willing to admit it. Talagang inutil ako diyan. Wala akong magawa. I cannot…
“The moment I send my Marines there at the coastal shores of Palawan, tinamaan ng cruise missile lahat iyan. Hindi pa nga naka-set sail iyan eh, sabog na,” Duterte said.
China has increased its military activity in the South China Sea. It also continues to construct military and industrial outposts on artificial islands it has built in disputed waters.
The U.S. has also stepped up its military activity and naval presence in the region in recent years.
In a speech during his November 2017 visit to Southeast Asia, U.S. President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of ensuring free and open access to the South China Sea.
China claims the entire South China Sea, where there are an estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In addition to China, five other countries have competing claims, including the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The countries claim islands and various zones in the South China Sea. These include the Spratly Islands, which are said to possess rich natural resources and fishing areas.
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague issued its ruling on a claim brought against China by the Philippines under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
The arbitration court ruled in favour of the Philippines. China refused to accept the court’s authority.
In the July 27 SONA, Duterte also addressed talk that the U.S. intends to reestablish a military base in the Philippines.
According to Duterte, he read that the Americans intend to go back to Subic in Zambales, previously home to the U.S. navy.
“I will just put on record my thoughts. I have nothing against America, I have nothing against China but if you put bases here, you will double the spectacle of a most destructive thing just like Manila during the Second World War — during the retaking of this city. One of the most devastated cities in the world.
“Kaya maglagay-lagay ka ng base at this time, this will ensure if war breaks out, because there would be atomic arsenals brought in, this will ensure the extinction of the Filipino race,” Duterte said.