TANAY, Philippines » The tough-talking Philippine president said Wednesday he will walk the extra mile for peace but warned China “it will be bloody” if the militarily superior Asian neighbor infringes on his country’s territory.
President Rodrigo Duterte issued the warning in comments on his country’s territorial disputes with China in a speech before troops at an army camp east of Manila. He has been seeking talks with China on the long-unresolved conflict.
Duterte said China has been conciliatory and he did not want any fight.
“We do not want a quarrel,” he said. “I would walk the extra mile to ask for peace for everybody.”
He expressed fears, however, about what will happen if the peaceful efforts fail, saying Filipino troops are ready to defend their country’s sovereignty despite its weak military.
“I guarantee to (China), if you enter here, it will be bloody,” he said. “And we will not give it to them easily. It will be the bones of our soldiers, you can include mine.”
An international arbitration tribunal ruled last month that China’s extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea were invalid under a 1982 U.N. treaty, in a major setback for Beijing, which has ignored the decision.
Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, initiated the arbitration case against China. Duterte has not pressed for Chinese compliance and does not plan to raise the decision at an annual summit of Southeast Asian leaders with their Chinese counterpart in Laos next month.
Duterte said, however, that “whether we like it or not, that arbitral judgment will be insisted not only by the Philippines” but by other countries in Southeast Asia, suggesting China should take steps to resolve the territorial issues now while conditions are conducive.
“We will not raise hell now because of the judgment, but there will come a time that we have to do some reckoning about this,” Duterte said.