Duterte: China won't build on Panatag out of respect

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he believes China will honor its word not to build structures on the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

"That was the assurance given by the Chinese government -- they are not going to build anything sa Panatag out of respect for our friendship, hindi nila gagalawin 'yan (they won't touch that)…China, kung anong sabihin niya, talagang ginagawa niya (they honor their word)," Duterte said on Thursday, in a press briefing upon his arrival from official visits to Myanmar and Thailand.

Duterte issued the statement after reports of Beijing planning to build a radar facility on the shoal. China denied the allegation, saying it places great importance on China-Philippines relations.

Read: China denies reports of building facility on Scarborough Shoal

Earlier, the President said he could not stop China's presence in the West Philippine Sea, as the Philippines will not be able to defeat China in the event of a standoff.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio then responded, saying the President should be bold in defending the Philippine territory.

Duterte on Thursday said he recognizes innocent passage, meaning China can pass through Philippine territory as long as it informs the government first.

"You're free to enter, just inform my navy, inform the Foreign Affairs secretary," he said.

The President , however, warned he will find the right time to invoke the arbitral ruling that invalidates China's claim over the South China Sea.

"During my term, before it ends, or in the middle of my administration, there has got to be time when I will confront with the arbitral judgment," he said.

In the meantime, Duterte emphasized the country's need for China, as the Asian superpower can help boost the Philippines' economy.

"I want to trade with you, because you are a very prosperous country. I need the money. In the meantime, I will set aside (the ruling), but I said remember my caveat that I will bring it up," he said.