UNITED NEWS INTERNATIONAL (UNI) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he will not take down a new “comfort women” statue in Manila.

Seiko Noda, Japan’s minister for internal affairs and communications, reportedly told Duterte on Tuesday, Jan. 9 the statue is “regrettable.”

But on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte will not get involved because he didn’t put the statue up in the first place.

The statue honors Filipino “comfort women,” who were forced to prostitute themselves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Philippine women’s group Gabriela had encouraged Duterte to resist any requests by the Japanese to remove the statue.

Gabriela said Duterte should instead demand the Japanese apologize and compensate

Filipino women who were “conscripted by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve as wartime sex slaves.”

Roque said Thursday he doesn’t believe the statue will become a diplomatic issue.