Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a visit in Baguio city, Philippines March 11, 2017. Picture taken March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Harley Palangchao
Philippine
President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a visit in Baguio
city

Thomson
Reuters


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday Chinese
counterpart China Xi Jinping had warned him there would be war if
Manila tried to enforce an arbitration ruling and drill for oil
in a disputed part of the South China Sea.

In remarks that could infuriate China, Duterte hit back at
domestic critics who said he has gone soft on Beijing by refusing
to push it to comply with an award last year by the Permanent
Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which ruled largely in favor
of the Philippines.

Duterte said he discussed it with Xi when the two met in Beijing
on Monday, and got a firm, but friendly warning.

“We intend to drill oil there, if it’s yours, well, that’s your
view, but my view is, I can drill the oil, if there is some
inside the bowels of the earth because it is ours,” Duterte said
in a speech, recalling his conversation with Xi.

“His response to me, ‘we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel
with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship,
but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.”

Duterte has long expressed his admiration for Xi and said he
would raise the arbitration ruling with him eventually, but
needed first to strengthen relations between the two countries,
which the Philippines is hoping will yield billions of dollars in
Chinese loans and infrastructure investments.

The Hague award clarifies Philippine sovereign rights in its
200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone to access offshore oil and gas
fields, including the Reed Bank, 85 nautical miles off its coast.


South China Sea Map
CSIS/Asia Maritime
Transparency Initiative


It also invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim on its maps
denoting sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

Duterte has a reputation for his candid, at times incendiary,
remarks and his office typically backpeddles on his behalf and
blames the media for distorting his most controversial comments.

Duterte recalled the same story about his discussion with Xi on
oil exploration in a recorded television show aired moments after
the speech.

He said Xi told him “do not touch it”.

He said Xi had promised that the arbitration ruling would be
discussed in future, but not now.

Duterte said China did not want to bring up the arbitral ruling
at a time when other claimant countries, like Vietnam, might also
decide to file cases against it at the arbitration tribunal.


csis south china sea
Asia Maritime Transparency
Initiative/CSIS


It was not the first time the firebrand leader has publicly
discussed the content of private meetings with other world
leaders.

His remarks came the same day that China and the Philippines held
their first session in a two-way consultation process on the
South China Sea.

They exchanged views on “the importance of appropriately handling
concerns, incidents and disputes involving the South China Sea”,
the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that gave few
details.



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