MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte denied on Wednesday that his administration has made friends with China because of what the East Asian country can offer.
“They [China] offered to help. If the aid is coming, good. If not, okay lang rin sa akin (it’s okay with me) because we do not make friends in anticipation of what they can give us. That is stupid. We make friends because we just like to be friends,” he said in a meeting with his PDP-Laban party mates.
Duterte expressed his gratitude to China for supplying the Philippines with Covid-19 vaccines, some of which were provided for free.
He stated that China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines were the first to arrive in the country last February.
“If your friend is kind to you, then be thankful. Kagaya nga nang pag-umpisa nitong contagion, wala talaga tayong bakuna (During the start of this contagion, we really don’t have vaccines). The other nations who are rich and who had reached the apex of their technology, sila ang unang nakapagbakuna (they were the first to get vaccinated),” he added.
Despite developing stronger connections with China, Duterte stated that he has not “abandoned” his relationship with the United States (US).
“I never abandoned our relationship with America. Wala naman akong sinabing masakit sa kanila,” he said, noting that his independent foreign policy of being “friend to all, enemy to none” remains in place.
He warned that if conflict breaks out, the Philippines would be put in grave risk because the US is closest to Chinese bases in the South China Sea (SCS).
“The Filipinos must realize na ang Amerikano nandito (that Americans are here) not because they want to defend us, ito ‘yong battleground nila. So nandito sila (This is their battleground. They’re here) because instead of fighting it out in the state of California, they would rather do it here in the Philippines,” he said.
Duterte also blamed the previous government for the Scarborough Shoal’s loss just two days after former Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV visited China for the 16th time.
“They (China) are there not because they say that they want to add to their territory. They are there because they say that it’s theirs and they claim of ownership. We also claim it, but we lost the Scarborough Shoal. Ang Scarborough Shoal was lost because of the past administration,” he said.
In 2012, China took control of the Scarborough Shoal after a contentious standoff in which China denied access to the area for Filipino fishermen.
Following the intervention of the US, the Aquino administration withdrew the country’s ships from the shoal, while China agreed to keep their ships in the vicinity, thereby gaining possession of the shoal.
The Philippines won its arbitration case against China on July 12, 2016, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim to the contested waters. China refused to recognize the arbitral decision.