President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with key government officials at the Malacañan Palace on March 7, 2022. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Mar 8 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the Philippines should stick to its commitment on joint development of resources in Recto Bank with China, warning that the country is not prepared to get into “trouble” with its neighbor.

“So many flashpoints…We do not need it. Hindi natin kailangan makipag-away dyan, sundin lang ninyo kung anong pinagusapan noon, it’s a matter of honor, consensual talk tapos may written agreement,” Duterte said at his weekly Talk to the People.

“Just to remind everybody to stay cool, chill ka lang. Maybe it’s not in our generation maso-solve natin itong problema sa China.  We don’t know what the future holds pero at this time relax lang tayo…Do not tempt the gods and look for trouble that we cannot maybe handle, mahirapan tayo,” he added.

Duterte said a certain “contractor” was trying to take over the exploration project in the area, which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone.  However, he did not identify the firm or the person.

“Pinaalala sa akin, hindi ko na sabihin kung sino. From China, sabi niya, di ba may usapan tayo na joint development with Recto Bank. May bagong istorya na may papalit na,” Duterte said.

“Alam mo, I can only talk for this time that we are here, during my administration. Binulungan ako na ‘wag ganun, iyong original contract natin, sundin natin,” he added.

“Pag iniba ‘yan, mas delikado, hindi mangyari sa akin ‘yan kasi ayaw ko, ayaw kong ibahin kasi ‘yung ang pinagusapan namin sa panahon ko,” Duterte said.

Duterte said his source told him that the Philippines wanted to deploy more soldiers in Recto Bank, something he promptly denied.

“Sabi ko, wala naman kami balak magdala ng sundalo. [The person then told me] kung magpadala kayo ng sundalo, magpadala rin kami ng sundalo. ‘Yang ang iniiwasan ko noon pa eh. Tapos magkakgiyera tayo rito…iyong Ukraine. Iyong Taiwan gusto agawin ulit ng China. Tapos dito,” Duterte said.

In November 2018, the Philippines and China forged a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation on oil and gas development in the South China Sea, a part of which Manila claims as the West Philippine Sea.

The terms of reference of the said MOU was approved on August 2019, but the Philippine government has yet to release fine print of the deal to this day.

In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China’s nine-dash claim or entire claim of the South China Sea and ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippine EEZ.

China, however, did not participate in this process and has since refused to recognize the court ruling.

In November 2021, the Chinese coast guard fired water cannons at two Philippine supply vessels en route to supply troops aboard BRP Sierra Madre stationed in Ayungin Shoal.

This action by China was reminiscent of the April 2012 incident wherein Chinese forces also fired water cannons at Filipino fishing boats in Scarborough Shoal. This 2012 Scarborough standoff prompted the Philippines to sue China before the Hague court. (MNS)

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