No country can ignore nor diminish the Philippines’ arbitral victory in the South China Sea case, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday.
Duterte asserted the country’s arbitral win in his speech during the virtual plenary session of the 37th Asean Summit, emphasizing that the legal victory is now part of “international law”.
“The Philippine position is clear and firm. We must solve the disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he said.
Describing the sea dispute as “Asean’s strategic challenge”, Duterte said dealing with the problem would bare a country’s strengths and weaknesses.
“The 2016 arbitral award on the South China Sea is an authoritative interpretation of the application of UNCLOS. It is now part of international law. And its significance cannot be diminished nor ignored by any country, however big and powerful,” he added.
He, likewise, emphasized the need to fast-track a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to promote peace and stability in the busy waterway.
“The Philippines is one with Asean in transforming the South China Sea into a sea of peace and prosperity for all. We are committed to the immediate conclusion of a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. And if I may add, it has been a long time and it is a long wait,” he said.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration case it lodged against China after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the contested waters. China refused to acknowledge the arbitral ruling.
Since Duterte assumed office in 2016, he has opted to pursue a non-adversarial approach to address the maritime row with China.
China plays a crucial role in the Duterte government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program by providing financial assistance for a number of major infrastructure projects like bridges and railways.
The South China Sea, where the Spratly Islands are located, is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and China, which claims almost 80 percent of the waters. PNA.GOV.PH