President Rodrigo Roa Duterte discusses matters with Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque on the sidelines of the 22nd Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañan Palace on February 5, 2018. ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Malacañang on Monday said the county has no capacity to engage in a “shooting war” with China as it defended President Rodrigo Duterte for saying he cannot confront China over its “law-defiant” maritime law.

Speaking in front of soldiers in Clark, Pampanga on Feb. 12, Duterte said he could not be brave against China.

“Now the reason why I am so… I am walking on a tightrope, actually. I cannot afford to be brave in the mouth against China because, well, we are avoiding any confrontation — a confrontation that would lead to something which we can hardly afford, at least not at this time,” he said.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s defeatist remarks were not a sign of unpatriotism.

“I don’t think it’s unpatriotic,” he said in a virtual presser.

“I think it’s the reality that given the current state of our Armed Forces of the Philippines we cannot engage in a shooting war with any country not just China.”

The new Chinese law, which allows the Chinese coast guard to shoot foreign vessels in disputed South China Sea waters, was described by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin as defiant to the law.

China recently pledged 600,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the Philippines free of charge. John Ezekiel J. Hirro