Duterte says jet ski promise was ‘a pure campaign joke’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte said that his 2016 remark to go to the West Philippine Sea on a jet ski to assert the country’s rights in the disputed waters was a pure campaign joke.

Panahon sa kampanya iyan, at tsaka iyong biro na iyon, we call it bravado. Iyong bravado ko was just a pure campaign joke,” he said during his weekly address, even calling those who believed “stupid.”

[Translation: That was the time of campaign and that joke we call it bravado. My bravado was just a pure campaign joke.]

Nagyabang ako na pupunta ako sa Spratly, magdala ako ng flag na sakay ako ng jet ski,” Duterte also said.

[Translation: I bragged that I will go to Spratly, bring a flag by riding a jet ski.]

In his May 3 address, Duterte emphasized that he never promised to retake the West Philippine Sea from China.

This was contrary to his statement back in 2016 during the campaign for national elections when he said he would ride a jet ski to plant a Philippine flag on man-made islands occupied by China. He also mentioned during the CNN Philippines Town Hall meeting in February 2016 that he would stop China’s expansion activities in the area.

READ: Duterte: Retaking West Philippine Sea was never a campaign promise

For the past months, Philippine maritime authorities have been spotting the presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters that led to increasing tensions between the two sides. The Department of Foreign Affairs has also fired several diplomatic protests regarding this and on the illegal activities Chinese boats are conducting in the area.

These incursions also go against the Philippines’ 2016 arbitral victory against Beijing’s maritime claims that covered some areas in the West Philippine Sea and within the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, a ruling that the latter has consistently refused to recognize. Recently, Duterte also called the ruling a mere piece of paper that he can throw away in a trash bin. The remark immediately drew flak from his critics.

The country's chief executive has also repeatedly blamed officials from the previous administration regarding developments in the West Philippine Sea, even challenging former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to a debate, a dare which he later withdrew.

RELATED: Duterte to Carpio after debate withdrawal: I'm not afraid of you