Duterte praised for 'strong stand' on South China Sea award
An aerial shot of part of Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) in the disputed Spratly Islands taken on April 21, 2017.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Duterte praised for 'strong stand' on South China Sea award
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - September 23, 2020 - 10:54am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte received commendations for his latest remarks before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), where he invoked the Philippines' arbitral victory on the South China Sea arbitration.

In his statement during the general debate of the 75th Session of the UNGA late Tuesday, the president affirmed the country's commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 arbitral award.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who led the Philippines in the South China Sea arbitration, welcomed Duterte invoking the landmark ruling.

"We hope we can get the support of other countries so the arbitral award will be raised more emphatically next year," Del Rosario told ANC's "Headstart" Wednesday morning.

The former top diplomat added that the next step is for Duterte to "put in reality" the invocation of the arbitral award that invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, also a part of the Philippine delegation in the arbitration, commended Duterte's "strong stand" on the issue before the UNGA, where all 193 UN member states are represented.

Carpio said it was "heartening" that the president acknowledged that more countries have expressed support for the arbitral award.

"I fervently hope that this is the policy that the Duterte administration will implement across all levels -- in the protection of our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, in the negotiations for the Code of Conduct, and in gathering the support of the international community for the enforcement of the arbitral award," Carpio said.

For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Duterte's latest remarks before the UNGA reflects his position on the West Philippine Sea. 

"Hearing the President invoke the Award the UN General Assembly while firmly rejecting any attempt to undermine it should now erase doubts on where he stands regarding the [West Philippine Sea] issue," Lacson tweeted Wednesday morning.

The Duterte administration previously set aside the arbitral ruling while seeking stronger bilateral ties with China. The president insisted that invoking the arbitral award would entail going to war with Beijing.

READ: Palace: Philippines can 'set aside' South China Sea issues for infra trade

Since the arbitral ruling was handed out four years ago, China had deployed anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and radio jamming equipment on its artificial islands in the Spratly Islands. One of these military outposts is Mischief Reef, which is within Philippine exclusive economic zone.

In his first time to address the UN, Duterte stressed that the 2016 arbitral award is "now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon."

"We firmly reject attempts to undermine it," Duterte said.

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