MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After “bigger” issues with China are settled, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would bring up the involvement of Chinese nationals in the Philippine illegal drug trade with the Chinese government.
“When I come face to face with them, makinig kayo, sabihin ko talaga ang sama ng loob ko lahat sa kanila,” he said in a speech given during a fellowship dinner with his San Beda Law School batchmates on Sunday, July 17, in Malacañang Palace.
(When I come face to face with them, you listen, I will tell them all my grievances.)
Duterte said he would confront the Chinese government “at the proper time.”
“Huwag muna ngayon because, let’s just say, bigger issues about – but magpakita ako ng restraint muna ngayon,” he said.
(Not right now, because let’s just say, there are bigger issues. I’ll show restraint first.)
The President seemed to be referring to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea which came to head after a recent ruling by an international court that nullified China’s claims over the area.
Duterte also alleged that many of the drug suspects killed are Chinese nationals.
"Itong mga namatay dito na unclaimed, sino mag-claim niyan? (Those who die and the bodies are unclaimed, who will claim them?) Most of them really are Chinese," he said.
So far, however, there has been no report of Chinese nationals killed in police-led anti-drug operations.
Duterte said he would ask China why so many of their citizens are dealing drugs in the Philippines.
"That’s why, that’s my lamentations. Sabihin ko sa China one day: Bakit ganito ang sitwasyon? (I'll tell China one day: Why is this the situation?) Why is it that your... but most of the guys that come here do drugs, pati sa loob na (they are even inside)," he said.
In his first week in power, Duterte publicly named 3 Chinese drug lords running illegal drug trade operations in the Philippines.
Two of the drug lords are able to direct operations even from inside the New Bilibid Prison, he said, citing intelligence.
Drug syndicates cook shabu from inside ships labelled as originating from China, he claimed. Packs of shabu are dropped off by the ships in pre-determined locations and are found by local contacts through GPS tagging, he said previously.
The Duterte administration's biggest drug catch so far happened in the northern town of Claveria, Cagayan, where law enforcement authorities seized bags of shabu estimated to be worth about a billion and which they said had come most likely from China.
Tension between the Philippines and China has escalated due to the ruling by an international court that said China’s reclamation activities and other actions in the West Philippine Sea go against international maritime law. (READ: Japan, US: PH-China dispute ruling final, legally binding)
China has increased its rhetoric, saying it does not recognize the ruling and will reject talks with the Philippines if they are based on the ruling.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr brought up the ruling during the Asia-Europe Meeting in Mongolia last July 15, in defiance of China.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.