‘Fight for PH rights in WPS’

Duterte stands pat in defending sovereignty thru diplomacy, not war

President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said the Philippines would never ive up fighting for its sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea—but ruled out war with China.

LAST RITE. President Rodrigo Duterte leads the wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Monument during the 124th Philippine Independence Day celebration themed ‘Kalayaan 2022: Pagsuong sa Hamon ng Panibagong Bukas’ in Rizal Park, Manila on Sunday. Presidential Photo

“(Chinese) President Xi Jinping is my friend, and we have talked a lot in the many visits that I did in the past years,” Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“But I made it clear to him that we cannot give up sovereignty over the waters in the Philippine Sea, including the exclusive economic zone because it’s vital for our national life.”

Meanwhile, Duterte on Sunday led the country’s 124th Independence Day rites at Rizal Park, Manila City.

This was his last time celebrating the occasion as the country’s chief executive and the first time to attend the commemoration at Rizal Park. He will be replaced by President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on June 30.

During the event, Duterte took part in the flag-raising ceremony and wreath-laying ceremonies along with other Cabinet officials.

In a speech during the commissioning of the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Melchora Aquino at Pier 15 of South Harbor in Manila, the President said he could not find “a very cogent reason” why war should break out between the two countries.

Duterte said Filipinos would suffer if a war broke out between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea.

“We cannot afford to fight with China. We cannot win and we will lose, and the population will suffer. The Filipino nation will be in a tight situation in wondering how to go about navigating geopolitical issues in Europe and here in Taiwan. So, I’m praying that this will be sorted out by just talking,” he said.

Duterte, who leaves office on June 30, said he hoped the PCG would give him a ride to the West Philippine Sea as a civilian to assert the country’s claim over the waters.

He said such a move would not have any ramifications because by then he would be a civilian.

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration case it lodged against China after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over most of the South China Sea.

China refuses to acknowledge the arbitral ruling.

MRRV 9702, named after Melchora Aquino, popularly known as “Tandang Sora” and Mother of Katipunan, is one of the two largest white ships acquired by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the PCG through its Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) Phase 2.

It is ready to conduct sustained maritime patrols in the country’s maritime jurisdictions, including the West Philippine Sea and Philippine Rise.

Similar to BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV 9701), the MRRV 9702 is modeled after the Japan Coast Guard’s Kunigami-class vessel that has a maximum speed of 24 nautical miles per hour and endurance of not less than 4,000 nautical miles.

He also witnessed the high-speed pass of FA-50PH jet fighters, which were used in combat air operations during the 2017 battle to liberate Marawi City from the control of the Maute-ISIS Group terrorists in 2017.

Duterte did not deliver any speech during the Luneta event but later released an official message through his office.

In his message, he acknowledged the lessons that could be learned from the past but reminded Filipinos to give as much importance to the present.

“The shared narrative that we have weaved throughout history has never ceased in teaching us what values to hold and which lessons to remember. While we draw strength from learning about our past, we must continue believing that there is still wisdom to be gained from our present choices, decisions, and actions so we can shape a better future for our people,” he said.

Duterte also emphasized that in nation-building, liberties are there to make people “wiser and not to prove that we are always right or better.”

“Even in exercising our most cherished freedoms, our differences can move us to engage in healthy yet meaningful discourse without sowing hatred and division, as well as push our country towards the right direction,” he added.

Duterte reiterated his call for Filipinos to join hands and work together for the benefit of the country and people.

“In the spirit of patriotism and love of the motherland exemplified by those who came before us, let us come together in unity for the glory and triumph of the Filipino nation,” he said.

After the flag raising and wreath-laying ceremonies, Duterte stayed and talked to the members of the diplomatic corps for at least 45 minutes.

He then approached and greeted the audience and other event participants, including members of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.

In 2017, Duterte was supposed to commemorate his first Independence Day as president at Rizal Park but later decided to skip it because he was not feeling well. He celebrated the 120th and 121st Independence Days at the historic balcony of Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite in 2018 and the 6th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Malabang, Lanao del Sur, respectively.

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