A protest on alleged war threat will get nowhere » Manila Bulletin News

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There are some quarters who say the Philippines should file a protest against China in the United Nations (UN)  for allegedly threatening to go to war with the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea.

The problem is there is no official account of China’s alleged threat – not in any Chinese document that could perhaps be used in filing an official claim with the UN. The raging debate on what the Philippines should do is all based on President Duterte’s account of his conversation with China President Xi Jinping.

The President was speaking at the 33rd national convention of the Philippine Coast Guard at the SMX Convention Hall in Davao City last Friday, when he recalled his meeting with President Xi in Beijing. He said he told him he wants to drill for oil on an island which China also claims as its territory. “Their answer to me was: We are friends and we do not want to quarrel with you and we want to maintain the present warm relationship we have. But if you force the issue, we go to war.”

President Duterte gave this account to support his policy of maintaining good relations with China because the alternative, he said, is conflict, war. Did the Chinese president actually say, “We go to war”? Or was that President Duterte’s understanding of what the Chinese leader meant?

After that Davao speech made headlines, new Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano minimized the claim that China had threatened war. “The context was not threatening each other that we will go to war. The context was how do we stabilize the region and how do we prevent conflict,” he said.

China itself had no direct comment on President Duterte’s account of his talk with President Xi Jinping. Instead it said it would “work with the Philippines to peacefully resolve disputes through friendly consultation.”

In view of all these developments, the call to file a protest with the United Nations is not expected to move anywhere. All those pressing the government to file a protest should realize that the only basis for any such move is the President’s word on his understanding of China President Xi Jinping’s statement. And he will certainly not file such a protest, in view of his avowed policy of close cooperation rather than confrontation with China.

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