DAVAO CITY–President Rodrigo R. Duterte is firm on putting structures, including mounting the Philippine flag, in the West Philippine Sea, but emphasized the “Philippines will maintain good relations with the People’s Republic of China.”
The President also stressed he will claim Philippine ownership over Benham Rise.
“China can relax. We are friends. We will not go to war with you. We’re just trying to maintain the balance of the geopolitical situation there (West Philippine Sea),” President Duterte said.
While he extended his hands of friendship to China, the President also called on the Chinese government to “kindly take a deep look at the situation there to avoid the situation where everybody is grabbing every land and islet in the disputed islands.”
In a press briefing Monday before he left for an official visit to the Middle East, Duterte revealed he had been hearing plans to put up structures and missile facilities in the West Philippine Sea, which the Chinese government calls as the South China Sea.”I will not allow that to happen. So I said occupy and claim it as ours,” he said.
“So for the information of China, we will not place any weapons there. We are just there to claim the islands because that is really ours,” Duterte emphasized.
He ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to build structures there “to signify to all that it is the Philippines’ exclusive property.”
“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 for –inyo na (it’s yours). When the spectacle of a war is gone, nothing is dangerous to the Philippines,” he said.
Duterte said that with the Philippine flag installed in the West Philippine Sea, any exploration in the area needs clearance from the Philippine government. Upon his return, Duterte said he will be issuing an executive order renaming Benham Rise as “The Philippine Ridge” or “The Philippine Rise.”
Also known as Benham Plateau, this 13-million- hectare seismically active undersea region is located east of Luzon, and is 35 meters underwater at its shallowest point off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela. It is said to be wider than Luzon, Samar and Leyte combined.