Duterte: No way we can get back West PH Sea without any bloodshed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) – President Rodrigo Duterte admitted violence may erupt if the Philippines continues to assert its rights in areas being claimed by China in the West Philippine Sea, despite being well within the country's exclusive economic zone.

"We can retake it only by force. There is no way we can get back 'yung tinatawag nilang [what they call as] (West) Philippine sea without any bloodshed," Duterte said in his national address on Monday night.

Dutete said the Philippines cannot possibly win against China if a bloody war ensues while affirming our jurisdiction over the disputed waters.

"The issue of the West Philippine Sea remains to be question forever until such time that you know, we can take it back. Walang iba, giyera lang (There's no other way but war)," the President said. "If we promote a war against China and America... at what cost to us? Yan ang problema (That's the problem)."

The President even discussed the country's Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, saying the Western superpower cannot be obligated to defend the Philippines in a war "created" by the latter.

He also claimed the country was the first to "surrender" its claims in the West Philippine Sea.

"Constructive occupation of the West Philippine Sea was completed by the singular act of China not retreating. Sa international law, ganyan 'yan. Ikaw ang umalis, ibig sabihin, hindi iyo (That's the rule in international law. When you are the first to leave, it means that is not yours already)," Duterte declared.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier assured that Filipino fishermen can freely go to the contested islands and reefs.

"Our ships can go there. In fact regularly, mga barko natin sa Kalayaan, nagre-resupply sa Kalayaan Island Group (our ships are resupplying in the Kalayaan Island Group)," said Lorenzana. "Pati yung ating mga fishermen ay libre nakapangisda na hindi sila ginugulo ng mga Chinese (Our fishermen can freely catch fish there without being harassed by the Chinese)."

Lorenzana's remark was in stark contrast to many incidents of harassment reported by Filipino fishermen involving Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

Last Jan. 25, fisherman Larry Hugo said he was blocked by a Chinese Coast Guard ship while he was on his way to his regular fishing area near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island in Palawan.

Last April 9, a civilian vessel with a news reporter and a television crew was chased by two missile attack craft of the Chinese Navy just around 90 nautical miles from mainland Palawan and within the country's exclusive economic zone.

But Duterte said he would send Philippine Navy "gray ships" to the area once China conducts oil drills inside the EEZ.

"Kapag kinuha oil, nickel diyan, precious stone, that will be the time we should act on it... Hindi 'yung habul-habulan diyan, 'yung habulin 'yung isang reporter," said Duterte, pertaining to the TV news crew incident.

[Translation: If they drilled for oil, nickel, and other precious stones, that will be the time we should act on it...Not playing tag, like with this reporter.]

Duterte criticized former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a staunch defender of the Philippines' claims in the West Philippine Sea who has accused the President of having no sense of urgency in addressing the presence of suspected Chinese militia vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef.

"If the United Nations will ask China to surrender because of that award given to us, ibibigay ba ng China 'yan (will China honor it)? Can the United Nations compel China and do you think China will just give it freely because of the United Nations' demand?" he said. "Iyan ang hindi ko maintindihan sa kanya (That's what I cannot understand about him), he's a dreamer."

RELATED: Carpio sees no concern, future action from Duterte amid presence of suspected Chinese militia in West PH Sea

As of April 14, around 240 Chinese maritime militia vessels were spotted swarming in areas within the country's exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over the prolonged presence of Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe Reef. It also reiterated its demand for the immediate departure of other Chinese vessels in other maritime zones of the Philippines.

An arbitral tribunal in 2016 ruled that China's island-building activities on these reefs and four others violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS and "have caused devastating and long-lasting damage to the marine environment."

China rejects the ruling, which also recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights to parts of its EEZ which Beijing contests. The East Asian giant claims almost the entire South China Sea, including areas Manila claims as the West Philippine Sea.