Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address on Monday and said that while the Philippines “owns” a disputed area of the South China Sea, the Chinese controls the waters.

Duterte’s seemingly soft stance toward China may stem from the fact that China has guided missiles positioned on artificial islands that can reach Manila in less than 10 minutes. Duterte is of the opinion that the Chinese would not hesitate to use arms in a conflict and added in the speech that “If you want marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, not one of them will come home alive.”

The area in question is the western side of the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ established by the Philippines via a presidential decree in 1978. The zone encircles the archipelago at about 370 km from its shores. The western side of the zone contains the Spratly Islands and Panganiban Reef, also called Mischief Reef.

The Chinese have an overlapping claim with the “Nine-Dash” line, a U-shaped area marked by dashes on a map that includes most of the South China Sea and encroaches into the EEZ. The line gets very close to the Philippine coast near the Province of Palawan. The origin of the line dates to the post WW II 1940s.

Duterte spent nearly 10 minutes of the speech on the topic and revealed that he had asked the Chinese President Xi to allow Filipino fishermen to fish in the EEZ. In exchange, Duterte would “allow” Chinese fisherman to work in that same area. His remarks came on the heels of a recent sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese vessel.

Oil exploration is likely a more critical issue to both countries than fishing rights. In 2014 China began to explore for oil in the South China Sea. Currently there is tension between China and Vietnam over oil in the Vietnamese EEZ that is also within the Nine Dash line. Several maritime incidents have occurred recently.

At the conclusion of Duterte’s speech, his statements about China’s control over the West Philippine Sea were countered by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. He was quoted as saying by ABS-CBN, a Filipino media and entertainment group based in Quezon City, Philippines: “Foreign naval powers – U.S., Britain, France, Australia, Japan, and Canada – continuously sail and conduct naval drills in the South China Sea, including the [West Philippine Sea], demonstrating that China is not in possession of [it].”