Hague ruling on SCS ‘just paper’? Velasco believes Duterte remarks ‘borne out of frustration’
MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco believes President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent remarks denigrating the 2016 ruling by the international arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which favored the Philippines in its maritime dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, were “borne out of frustration.”
Duterte on Wednesday said that the victory of the Philippines over China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is just a “piece of paper” to be thrown away.
“I believe that PRRD’s sentiments about the matter were already made clear during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, where his audience was composed of world leaders and heads of state: The Philippines is not surrendering its sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea,” Velasco said in a text message.
“Although I cannot speak for the President, I suspect that his more recent pronouncements were borne out of frustration, as he contemplates the very difficult task of balancing diplomatic relations, national interest, and economic recovery amidst an unprecedented global pandemic,” Velasco added.
Velasco said the issue on the West Philippine Sea “is purely a concern that should be best left to the Executive Department, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense.”
In 2013, the Philippines, under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III challenged in the Hague court China’s claim that it has jurisdiction over more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, which includes waters in the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Two weeks after Duterte assumed office in 2016, the tribunal ruled that China’s claim had no basis in international law and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea, the waters within the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
China has consistently refused to acknowledge the 2016 ruling.
Duterte, nonetheless, raised the Hague ruling during his online speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2020, saying that “the Philippines affirms that commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitral award.”
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