Philippine ships in the West Philippine Sea will stay put.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in a taped address aired on Friday, said the country’s vessels in the West Philippine Sea would stay put, even as he acknowledged that the Philippines had a “debt of gratitude” to China.

“We have a stand here and I want to state it here and now again, that ‘yong mga barko natin nandiyan ngayon sa Pag-asa at saan pa, we will not move an inch backward,” he said.

“Ayaw kong makipag-away nga sa China…Inuulit ko, may utang na loob kami malaki, malaki ang utang na loob,” he added.

The Chinese government has donated one million doses of CoronaVac (Sinovac) vaccines to the Philippines, used to launch the latter’s mass inoculation program.

The Philippines, in total, paid for 25 million CoronaVac doses.

“Buhay ang itinulong nila sa amin e. Pero ‘yong ano naman ng bayan namin sana maintindihan ninyo. Kung hindi ninyo maintindihan, e di magkakaroon talaga tayo ng problema. But please understand us because these things are what supposed to be done by any president of any self-respecting republic,” Duterte said.

Earlier this week, the National Task Force for West Philippine Sea said it was only awaiting Duterte’s directive to continue Philippine maritime exercises in the disputed waters.

The task force said the vessels deployed were the BRP Malapascua (MRRV 4003), MCS 3001 and MCS 3008 at the Kalayaan municipality in Palawan and the Sindangan (MRRV 4407) and MCS 3005 at Bajo de Masinloc.

A maritime patrol on May 9 found 287 Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea,

Duterte claimed anew that he was ready to die to protect Philippine territory.

“It’s not wrong to admit na inferior ka in terms of might and power. Hindi naman masama magprangka ka, ito lang talaga ang kakayahan ko pero huwag mo naman akong kayahin. Ngayon, hindi talaga ako aatras,” he said.

“Patayin mo man ako kung patayin mo ako, dito ako. Dito magtatapos ang ating pagkakaibigan,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro