Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the President has clearly stated the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise belong to the country before joking about being a Chinese province.

“The Philippine President was very clear: We will not give away even a single inch of territory,” Roque said during a Palace news conference.

“So iyong biro niya  [His joke] is, you know, it’s just to emphasize na it’s ours but we’re one with China. Take it in that spirit. But he was very firm that we have title over the disputed area in West Philippine Sea, and we have rights in Benham – exclusive rights in Philippine Rise,” he added.

Last Monday, the President joked that China could make the Philippines into a province during a gathering of Filipino-Chinese businessmen at the Manila Hotel.

Duterte made light of the matter after stressing the country prefers to settle its dispute with China diplomatically, and not through use of force.

He also said the country was open to joint oil exploration with China even sharing a possible sharing scheme between the two nations.

He said the country could get two-thirds share of the resources while China will get one-third. “At saka probinsya na kami [Beside we’re a province] Oh, Province of Philippines, Republic of China,” he said.