'China has the arms. We do not have it,' Duterte says on West Philippine Sea
MANILA, Philippines — While Manila has legal entitlements over the West Philippine Sea as ruled upon by an arbitral tribunal, President Rodrigo Duterte said he cannot do anything on the maritime dispute with China.
Once again, the president insisted that asserting the Philippines' rights over the West Philippine Sea would entail going to war with China.
"Unless we are prepared to go to war I suggest we that we better... treat it with a diplomatic endeavor," he said.
"China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it. So, it's simple as that," the president also said.
In his fifth State of the Nation Address Monday afternoon, the president said both the Philippines and China claim the West Philippine Sea, with the latter in possession.
"They (China) are in possession of the property, so what we can do? We have to go to war and I cannot afford it. Maybe some president can but we cannot. Inutil ako d'yan," Duterte said.
Raising war with China over arbitral award meant to 'scare' Filipinos
Duterte declared this after saying that his administration would "work without fail" in protecting the country's sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, the portion of the South China Sea that is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
China not in possession of West Philippine Sea
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, the main agent in the Philippines' arbitration against China, pointed out that Manila already has legal title over the contested waterway from its arbitral victory four years ago.
Hilbay further stressed that the world agrees with the landmark ruling that invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the South China Sea.
"China is in illegal possession of some features, not [the] entirety of [West Philippine Sea]. [Philippine] military still patrols WPS," Hilbay said on Twitter.
Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, also a part of the Phillippine delegation in the South China Sea arbitration, had long been suggesting several measures to enforce the arbitral award without going to war with China.
In various occasions, Carpio reiterated that enforcing the arbitral award does not entail going to war with Beijing, which continues to reject the ruling.
Some measures include entering into sea boundary agreements with other claimant states such as Vietnam and Malaysia, filing an extended continental shelf claim before the UN, sending patrol vessels to the West Philippine Sea, encouraging freedom of navigation and overflight operaitons with other countries, among others.
Filipinos want government to assert West Philippine Sea rights
A recent Social Weather Stations survey found that seven in 10 Filipinos agree that the government should assert its territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
The survey released a few weeks ago showed that 70% of Filipinos said the government should assert its rights over the islands, as stipulated in the 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal.
The same poll revealed that 82% of Filipinos agreed that the Philippines should form alliances with other democratic countries to help defend its rights over the West Philippine Sea.