PH to ‘strictly adhere’ to UN arbitral ruling
The Philippines will not “deviate from” an international tribunal ruling that rejected China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea but it must build trust with China before discussing “sensitive” bilateral issues, Malacañang said on Monday.
Mr. Duterte said on Saturday that given the play of politics today, he would set aside the arbitral ruling on the Philippines’ case against China.
He also boasted about China’s promised assistance to the Philippines after the US aid agency Millennium Challenge Corp. withheld funding for a second Philippine antipoverty program.
“The President has said on numerous occasions that he will not deviate from the four corners of the ruling,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said on Monday.
The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in July that China’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea had no basis in international law and that it had violated the Philippines’ rights to fish and explore for resources in the waters within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the disputed waters.
Andanar said that since assuming office, Mr. Duterte had been working to strengthen the Philippines’ ties with China.
“His administration has been building confidence and trust with Chinese leaders and we expect this to continue, until such time that we achieve a trust level that will allow us to discuss the more sensitive issues in our bilateral relations,” he said.
Adhere to ruling
Andanar said the Philippines continued to respect the “milestone” ruling and would strictly adhere to it.
China has refused to recognize the tribunal’s decision.
Mr. Duterte has played down the arbitration ruling, saying it would “take a back seat” during his visit to China in October.
After Mr. Duterte’s visit to China, Filipino fishermen had been able to access the area around Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) without being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard, which has blockaded the shoal since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.
Earlier on Monday, former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said he was disturbed by the government’s setting aside of the tribunal ruling while unwinding military dealings with the United States.
“The foregoing declarations are most sadly being made after we had taken a firm rules-based position to defend what is ours—and won,” Del Rosario said in a statement. —WITH REPORTS FROM JOCELYN R. UY
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