President Rodrigo Duterte said he and China’s President Xi Jinping agree that war is not an option in the South China Sea as he stressed it is better not to discuss the issue during the Association of Southeast Asia Nations summit.
Speaking at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, Duterte recounted what he and Xi discussed during their bilateral meeting in Vietnam, where both attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.
Xi, according to Duterte, said: “If you are President Duterte and you want to preserve the lives of the Filipinos, then as president of China, I want to save lives. I do not waste the lives of my countrymen for a useless war that cannot be won by anybody.”
“He made it clear to us that the only way to go is cooperation,” Duterte added. “And so I would say that we should open our doors to everybody. Ideological conflicts are no longer in … vogue, it’s … passé. We do not go about running this world in accordance to our … Whether it is a pretended principle in life or just want to go the aggressor.”
Duterte slammed what he called “hotheads who would like to confront China and the rest of the word (on) so many issues” but insisted “we have to be friends.” Which is why, he added, “the South China Sea is better left untouched.”
“Nobody can afford to go to war,” not even the major powers such as Russia, China, the United States or Great Britain, he stressed.
In the same speech, Duterte appealed once more to rebel groups to “just simmer down and we’ll talk” as he vowed to rebuild Marawi City, which has been laid waste by five months of fighting between government forces and extremist gunmen.
Duterte said he was informed that enough taxes have been collected “to lay the foundation of the city again.” Although he had earlier declared Marawi “liberated” following the deaths of extremist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, Duterte admitted “nobody won that war, not the government.”