MANILA – The Philippines has no business being a republic if it cannot fight its own battles, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday as he raised the possibility of making the country a province of China after Manila pulled out of its Visiting Forces Agreement with Washington.
Despite the Philippines’ military alliance with the United States, Duterte said Filipino soldiers are still the ones handling the country’s communist insurgency and illegal drugs problem anyway.
“Kasi ‘pag hindi natin kaya (If we can’t do it), we have no business being a Republic. You might as well choose. We can be a territory of the Americans, or we can be a province of China, kung hindi natin kaya,” Duterte said in a speech at the 2020 Ani ng Dangal Awards in Malacañang.
“Ganun lang, insurrection,” he added.
Since assuming office in 2016, Duterte has distanced Manila from Washington, its long-time ally, and adopted a friendlier stance towards Beijing despite lingering disputes over the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
Earlier this month, talks of a possible military agreement with another country emerged after the Philippines formally notified the US of its intent to pull out of the VFA even after several of its top officials warned of its consequences.
Duterte said he was assured by the Philippine military and police that state forces could handle the country’s defense even without the help of the US.
The Philippines and US have regularly held joint military training. Washington has also provided military aid to the Philippines' armed forces through equipment donations and capability-building, as well as humanitarian assistance.
Duterte posed the question on whether the Philippines needs a “powerful country” like the United States to “survive as a nation.”
“Sa Republic of the Philippines, do you need a powerful country --- the most powerful country at that? United States of…? Do we need America to survive as a nation? Do we need America now to fight a rebellion in our entire country? Do we need their arms?” he asked.
“Sila, maraming mga sophisticated intelligence gadgets. Tayo wala. Mano-mano lang ito (we do it manually). So, but we are doing it,” he added.
Malacañang earlier said the Philippines must stop being a “parasite” to other countries in terms of defense after its move to abrogate the VFA.
“We must stand on our own and put a stop to being a parasite to another country in protecting our independence and sovereignty,” Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said.