President Rodrigo Duterte, who promised during his presidential campaign that he would travel by jetski to plant a Philippine flag on an island in the West Philippine Sea, said on Monday that nothing would happen if he did so.

“Even if I go there, I said, with (Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana), and sail there and ask questions, wala mang mangyari,” he said in a televised address.

“Sasagutin ka lang, but you know the issue of the West Philippine Sea remains to be a question forever until such time that you know, we can take it back.”

Duterte said asserting the Philippines’s rights on the West Philippine Sea would cause bloodshed, which he said the country could not risk entering.

“If we promote a war against China and America, medyo siguro mamadalian. Pero at what cost to us? Iyan ang problema, iyan talaga ang problema. But we can retake it only by force. There is no way that we can get back the tawag nilang Philippine Sea without any bloodshed. Iyan talaga ang totoo,” he said.

“If we go there really to find out and to assert jurisdiction, I said, it would be bloody. It will result in a violence that we cannot maybe win. Ang problema nito we have always, well, sided with America in so many issues including this one.”

Duterte also said that the country could not initiate a war and have the US side with the Philippines automatically, because “only if we are being attacked and assaulted” would the Mutual Defense Treaty take effect.

The president said that he wanted to remain friends with China, “but when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever it is in the bowels of the China Sea, sa ating oil, diyan na ako–then by that time, I will send my ships there.”

Last week, the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said it had seen at least six Chinese warships and 240 Chinese militia vessels in the territorial waters off Kalayaan in Palawan.

“A minimum estimate that each can catch one (1) ton of fish amounts to a conservative total of 240,000 kilos of fish illegally taken from Philippine waters every single day that the massed Chinese fishing vessels remain in the West Philippine Sea. These acts fall under illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” the NTF-WPS said in a statement. John Ezekiel J. Hirro