Consider us your brothers, not enemies. This was how President Rodrigo Duterte recently put it when he asked Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua to allow Pinoy fishermen in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea.
“I hope the Chinese may find a place in their hearts for the Filipinos. I hope you treat us [as] your brothers and not enemies and take note of our plight,” Duterte said in the presence of the Chinese diplomat in his speech at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Duterte repeated his eagerness to sit down with China for bilateral talks after the United Nations saw the issue on the disputed West Philippine Sea in favor of the Philippines. But at the moment, Duterte would rather keep silent about the sea ruling done in our favor lest China begin to close its doors totally on us.
“I will never bring the matter because it might lead only to the suspension of the talks in China and that is not good, Mr. Ambassador. So I propose that we just have a soft landing everywhere,” Duterte said.
However, the ruling will have a proper time for discussion with China in the future, when conditions have become more favorable for the Philippines. In reality, he has no other option but to face them with the fact someday.
“I will not use the judgment arbitral now but I would, one day, sit in front of your representative or you and then I will lay bare my position. And I would say that this paper, I cannot get out of the four corners of this document,” Duterte explained.
Again, Duterte stressed that he has no intention of ever waging war against China on the issue, and instead gave a jesting remark:
“But for now, Mr. Ambassador, I want to just talk to you for the moment. Maybe give us time to build our forces also. You have so much superiority,” Duterte bantered, eliciting laughter from his audience.
But later, he said seriously: “I don’t go to war. There’s always war and peace. If I am not ready for war, then, peace is the only way,” the president said.
The other day, the president urged Beijing to allow local fishermen to fish in the controversial West Philippine Sea during a chance interview with media reporters at the Malacanang.
“It’s about time that they should consider returning the privilege of the Filipinos to fish there,” the President said in a chance interview with reporters in Malacañang on Tuesday.
“China should be hearing us out. (It’s) about time that you lift the ban to tourists and allow the Filipinos to fish there,” Duterte urged them.