The Philippine government would not immediately confront China over a favourable tribunal ruling on the South China Sea, admitting the country has no power to enforce it, President Duterte has said.
Duterte instead brought up the possibility of the Philippines sharing the disputed area with China, which according to an American publication has recently put up antiaircraft and antimissile systems on all seven artificial islands it has built in the sea region.
President Duterte said he was not spoiling for a fight with China, stressing that the regional behemoth can easily quell any fight the government can mount.
But the maritime dispute would be brought up during his term, he vowed, saying he had conveyed as much to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"I will bring this up someday, but it will be during my time, that I have this arbitral award, so I have to push it," he said.
"What can I do with the Scarborough shoal, swim there every day? For what? To send my soldier there to die, with the bodies floating there?"
"If I send the Marines there, they will be wiped out and in just one minute. It will be a disaster. We have no might," he stressed.
Instead, he raised the possibility of jointly developing the area and sharing the resources there.
"If you want, well, let's just develop what oil is there. Let's share the resources," President Duterte said.
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Duterte's statement followed that of Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, who has insisted that Manila was virtually helpless in the face of Chinese expansion.
Albert del Rosario, Manila's ex-foreign secretary, on Monday warned that the Philippines would be left "twisting in the wind" if it failed to confront China on the arbitral ruling.
Del Rosario presented the Philippines' arbitration case in The Hague last year.
He said the government's benign declarations came in the face of China's perceived militarisation of the region.
"Now, we seem to be on a track to relinquish those gains that have been made to benefit our people," Del Rosario said, referring to the ruling.
"We appear to be well on the way to placing the country's future in the hands of our northern neighbour who…is now effectively demeaning our stand for upholding the rule of law by its continuing and clear violations of Unclos (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) to our detriment," he said.
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It now appears that the rule of law "is not possible," Del Rosario said.
Duterte had also warned that he would scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States after the US aid agency Millennium Challenge Corp. deferred funding for a second antipoverty programme due to thousands of extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs.