President Rodrigo Duterte listens to a briefing by National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr,. during an inspection of housing units awarded to former members of the New People’s Army at the Freedom Residences in Tagum City on July 16, 2019. (Robinson Niñal/Presidential Photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte warned Filipinos of China’s military might, saying Beijing’s missiles could reach Manila in just minutes if the Philippines adopted an aggressive stance on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Actually, their missiles now can reach Manila in seven minutes. Do you want to fight?” Duterte said in an interview broadcast over the television program of his close friend, preacher Apollo Quiboloy.

Duterte said he would invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty obligating the US to protect the Philippines in case of an external attack, but his critics on the sea dispute — Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, retired ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario — should lead the charge against China.

The president said he was “tired” of parrying criticisms.

“I’m calling now. Now, I’m calling now America. I am invoking the RP-US pact, and I would like America to gather all their Seventh Fleet in front of China. I’m asking them now and I will join them, and I will ride on the boat where the admiral of the US. But I will drag along this Carpio and the rest of the – Albert [del Rosario]. And… And when America will say that, ‘We are here now,’ and I said ‘Ready? Ready? Can I have the honor, admiral?’ I will press the…and maybe that will be the end of Palawan,” Duterte said.

“And then we can sing the Mona Lisa. They just lie there and they die there. Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa? So sabi nila (they say), “Duterte, you must protect our marine resources and people fishing there. You must drive them out.”

But the Philippines cannot simply tell China to get out of the disputed waters, the president said.

Alam naman talaga na (it’s known that) it’s impossible kay sabihin man ng China (because China will say), ‘Who are you to tell us to get there? This is our ocean.’ That’s why it’s named China Sea. It’s not named Philippine Sea,” Duterte said. (