President Rodrigo R. Duterte. 

MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday asked China to stop surrounding Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), warning that just one harmed soldier could “precipitate trouble there.”

Duterte, in a PDP-Laban campaign rally in Batangas, made this statement after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bared that a rise in the number of Chinese fishing vessels have been discovered near the Philippine-occupied island since January this year.

Iyong Pag-asa Island, sinabi ko, huwag ninyong i-surround kasi may mga sundalo ako diyan (I said, don’t surround Pag-asa Island because I have soldiers there),” Duterte said in his speech.

Nag-warning lang ako. Hindi ko tinatakot ang China (I just warned them. I didn’t threaten China). But it could precipitate trouble there. 'Pag namatayan ako ng sundalo maski isa, ah gulo na 'yan (If I lose even just one soldier there, there would be trouble),” he added.

He also appealed to China to allow Filipino fishermen to fish in the disputed waters and not to drive them away.

“But there will be a time, at sabihin ko sa China ngayon (and I will tell China now) that they should also meet halfway. Kagaya ng mga mangingisda natin, tapos 'yang palibutan nila 'yang Pag-asa (To consider our fishermen, and their actions surrounding Pag-asa Island),” he added.

The President said waging a war with China is unwise, since he doubted that other nations, including the US, would be willing to take part in the conflict.

Pero ngayon, magsabi ka, ‘mag-fight ako sa China,’ (But now, if you say, ‘I will fight China’) okay, who will come? Who will? Sino? Magbigay ka ng limang magtulong sa atin (Name at least five countries that will help us),” Duterte said.

“America? Mag-suicide kaya ang America ng nuclear war para sa atin (Would America risk a suicide and wage a nuclear war for us)? Would America risk a Third World war just to defend?” he added.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the best solution to conflict between the Philippines and China is through negotiations.

“Again I will repeat: the best way is still negotiation. Negotiation is the best avenue by which we can solve any conflict in any area in the South China Sea,” Panelo said in a recent TV interview.

“Otherwise, we will be forced at the risk of an armed conflict, even if minimal,” he added.

He also insisted that the Duterte administration has never “shelved” the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines against China at The Hague. (PNA)