Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo holds a press briefing at Malacañang.
Facebook screengrab/Presidential Communications
Palace: Arbitral ruling 'never shelved'
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 14, 2019 - 5:54pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration never shelved the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea, Malacañang said Sunday, after the Philippines' former top diplomat had urged the government to "unshelve" the landmark decision that favored the country.

On Saturday, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said it may be the "right time" to "unshelve" the arbitral ruling, citing what he described as 
"aggression and aggressive moves" of China.

He said Philippine officials should sit down with their Chinese counterparts for the enforcement of the ruling.

The ruling, which was issued by a Hague-based tribunal in 2016, said there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the so-called nine-dash line, which demarcates China’s claims in the South China Sea.

China refuses to recognize the ruling, which also states that some parts of South China Sea  "fall within areas where only the Philippines possesses possible entitlements to maritime zones" under the United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Hague-based court also ruled that China have violated the Philippines' sovereign rights by interfering with Filipino fishermen and building artificial islands among other actions.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo claimed the arbitral ruling was not shelved but could not be enforced.

"In the first place, this administration never shelved the arbitral ruling. It only remains unenforceable because no foreign force seems persuaded to help us enforce it," Panelo said in a statement.

"Neither do we have the capability of enforcing it alone by force, not to mention the fact that performing armed acts of enforcement could only trigger a bloody 
war that could cost the lives of our countrymen and destruction of properties in our land," he added.

Panelo noted that he had invoked the ruling when he reacted to a Chinese foreign ministry official who claimed that the Spratlys are part of China's territory.

"Assuming that we have temporarily shelved it as we pursue trade relations with China, the fact of invoking the arbitral ruling in our latest statement as well as 
asserting our sovereignty on our territory and right over our exclusive economic zone in response to an official statement from the Chinese government reiterating its claim of ownership and sovereignty over the disputed areas, effectively removed it from the shelf by virtue of such invocation and assertion," the presidential spokesman said.

The Chinese foreign ministry reiterated that Spratlys belongs to China after President Rodrigo Duterte asked China to lay off Pag-asa, the largest of the nine Philippine-controlled islets in the disputed Spratlys region.

Panelo reiterated that the arbitral ruling, which is based on the UNCLOS and international law, is "irreversible" and should be respected by China.

"It (ruling) has the stamp of permanence. We urge the Chinese government to respect it, and we hope the mechanism of bilateral negotiations between the countries forge a mutually satisfactory solution to the conflict based on internationally accepted principles of justice and reciprocity, as well as anchored on the dictates of each national security and aspirations of their people," the presidential spokesman said.

Panelo also accused del Rosario of "pretended patriotism, saying the Philippines lost the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to China when he was Foreign Affairs secretary. China occupied the traditional fishing ground in 2012.

"Mr. Del Rosario, being responsible for the loss of the country's possession of the Scarborough Shoal during his stint as Foreign Affairs secretary by naively 
causing the withdrawal of our armed ship in the area of conflict, certainly cannot put forward his pretended patriotism and feigned righteousness as if he has not 
contributed vastly to the unwelcome situation we are presently in," Panelo said.

MALACANANG PHILIPPINE-CHINA TIES SALVADOR PANELO SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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