Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ president, speaks during a news conference at the Asean Summit in Manila, the Philippines. (Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg)

Duterte Says Philippines Won't Oppose China on Sea Activity

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that he would not provoke China into a war following reports that the Chinese military landed long-range bombers on an airport in the South China Sea.

“You know they have the planes, not stationed in Spratly but near the provinces facing -- Chinese provinces facing the Spratly and the China Sea. And with their hypersonic, they can reach Manila within seven to 10 minutes,” Duterte said in a speech on Saturday in Cebu, according to transcript emailed by his office Sunday.

Facing criticism over his apparent inaction on China’s increasing military activity in the South China Sea, Duterte questioned where his country would end up should war erupt in the region. “What will we arm ourselves with if there’s a war? Will we resort to slapping each other? I couldn’t even buy myself a rifle. It was given to me. So how will we even fight with the Chinese?”

Duterte said there was no assurance that the U.S. would remain on the side of the southeast Asian nation if war broke out. A more feasible solution would be to forge a joint exploration pact with China to harness the disputed sea’s potential, he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson called on the Philippine’s government on Saturday to act on China’s militarization of the disputed waters. He said the Philippines could seek the help of its ally countries to pressure China to stop its military activities. It could also insist on the UN arbitration ruling won by the Philippines in July 2016.

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