Duterte explains order to occupy islands in South China Sea
President Rodrigo Duterte explained on Monday why he has ordered the military to occupy, raise flag and build structures in the nine islands in South China Sea after China raised concern over his pronouncement.
Before leaving for the Middle East, Duterte, in a press conference at the Davao airport, said he would like to address himself to the Chinese government, even calling its ambassador to the Philippines as his "friend."
"I ordered the occupation of the ten or nine islands that are just near our shores because there’s a heightening of the geopolitical issues and eventually maybe a violent low-intensity war over here," he said.
Duterte said if the geopolitical issues are in Europe or Africa, there would be no problem with him.
"But the problem is it is in the (South) China Sea or the West Philippine Sea," he said, citing China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Taiwan were "trying to position themselves strategically."
He raised concern if those countries attack each other, the Philippines would be affected as he noted also that the United States has been "stockpiling their weapons there."
Duterte said he would be thankful if conflict would not arise in the region because he did not want the Philippines to be involved in a war between nations
"I have extended my hand and friendship to the Chinese government. Kindly, kindly take a deep look at the situation. Everybody’s grabbing every land, every islet and every whether man-made. And nearest to us are the ten islands and I have it on good authority," he said.
The President assured China that the military would not place any offensive weapons nor guns in the islands that the Filipino soldiers have actually been occupying.
"We are just there to claim the island for us because that is really ours. And I have ordered the Armed Forces to build structures there to signify to all that they are ours and to place flag and structures," he said.
"We do not [mean harm] to China. We are friends, as a matter of fact. And maybe when we get rich, very rich, I can sell the land to you. When the spectacle of a war is gone nothing is dangerous to the Philippines," Duterte added.
He reiterated to China that what he has been claiming are those that really belong to the Philippines.
"China can relax. We are friends. We will not go to war with you. We're just trying to maintain the balance of geopolitical situation there," he said.
Duterte said when he returns from his trip to the Middle East, he would sign an executive order renaming Benham Rise, located east of Luzon, to "The Philippine Ridge" or "The Philippine Rise."
"I'm claiming both the ten or nine (islands in the South China Sea) and also the Benham Rise," he said.
China earlier raised concern over Duterte's order to the military to occupy the islands, which are part of the Kalayaan Island Group.
Duterte also planned to visit Pagasa, also in KIG, during the June 12 Independence Day and to raise flag there. Celerina Monte/DMS