Duterte UN speech opens door for wider engagement on SCS dispute — Palace exec
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s mention of the South China Sea dispute in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly has opened the doors for a “wider” engagement between stakeholders on the maritime issue, a Malacañang official said Wednesday.
“He (Duterte) is already signaling the opening of the doors for wider and more constructive engagement for all stakeholders involved in the situation in the South China Sea,” Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Robert Borje said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ The Source.
In his strongly-worded debut speech before the UN assembly last week, Duterte described the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague that struck down China’s expansive claims in the disputed waters as “beyond compromise.”
Duterte also said the Philippines rejects attempts to undermine the landmark ruling. He likewise welcomed the “increasing number of states” that support the Philippines’ legal victory.
However, Malacañang refused to acknowledge as a “strong statement” Duterte’s raising of the legal victory, saying that the remarks were mere “restatement” of the existing policy of his administration.
“I don’t think it’s a strong statement. It was a restatement of an old, existing policy,” Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said.
“Kampanya palang po sinabi na ni Presidente na hindi niya isusurrender maski isang inch ng ating teritoryo. ‘Yan po ay pagiging consistent lamang. Wala po tayong ipamimigay na teritoryo at paninindigan po natin ang ating panalo sa UN Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,” he added.
(Even during his presidential campaign, the President has already said that he will not surrender an inch of our territory. That is just being consistent. We will not surrender our territory and we will uphold our victory in the UN Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.)
China has been pushing for its expansive claims in the South China Sea, refusing to recognize the 2016 ruling which invalidated its ambitious nine-dash line feature which virtually owns the entire body of water.
Meanwhile, Duterte has chosen to shelve the PCA ruling in exchange for Chinese economic perks to help fund his administration’s infrastructure projects even as the Asian powerhouse continues its military activities within Philippine territory.