DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The repair of structures in the West Philippine Sea will continue, President Rodrigo Duterte told reporters on Monday after his visit to the two Chinese warships docked at the Sasa Port here.
“Well, they can always look the way around. We have been there since 1974 by the way,” he said.
Duterte’s statement came despite the earlier pronouncements of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, who said that all activities and structures made by the Philippines in the islands and its contested waters are deemed illegal.
Duterte ordered the construction and repair of facilities in Pag-asa and Kalayaan group of islands to assert Philippine sovereignty over them.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs maintained that all activities in the contested islands and seas are legal, as both Pag-asa ang Kalayaan are considered municipalities of Palawan.
“Any visit of activity we undertake there are part and parcel of our Constitutional mandate to ensure the safety, well-being, and livelihood of our citizens living in this municipality,” DFA spokesperson Robespierre was quoted saying in a news reports.
Duterte also announced his intention to conduct military exercises with China, akin to the Balikatan exercises with the U.S.
“Yes, I said I agree. We can have a joint exercise here in Mindanao maybe in the Sulu Sea,” he said.
Despite mounting pressure concerning the territorial dispute, the President’s cordial tone in dealing with the Chinese has not changed.
During the interview in Davao, Duterte said he was impressed with the Chinese warships and that he would try to build one during his term.
“Sabi ko, in my term maybe I will try to make something like this. But it has to be as beautiful as this. Ito carpeted, wala kang — hindi na kailangan — anti-slide ha. Wala kang makitang oil. It’s all carpeted after carpet. Oo. Napaka-ganda. Inside, it’s like a luxury hotel,” he said. (davaotoday.com)