Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a briefing that the Philippines would not go to war with China as it is a ‘good friend’ to the country.

The Chinese government donated most of the first vaccines in the Philippines — the CoronaVac from Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese pharmaceutical firm.

“So China, let it be known, is a good friend and we do not want trouble with them especially a war,” he said.

The President, however, insists that, while the Philippines owes China a debt of gratitude, he will not jeopardize the country’s sovereignty over the disputed West Philippine Sea. 

“But there are things which are not really subject to a compromise like pulling back. It is difficult. I hope they will understand, but I have the interest of my country also to protect,” he added.

Despite China’s demands, Duterte said he would not withdraw military troops patrolling the West Philippine Sea.

His statement sparked a debate among Filipinos on social media, with many criticizing the president for not taking a stronger stance on the issue.