Following the lead of President Duterte, a ranking Chinese government official branded the Philippines’ landmark victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 in The Hague as a piece of scrap paper.
“The arbitral award is nothing more than a piece of waste paper. It is illegal, null and void,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was quoted in reports as saying.
China does not accept or recognize the award, Lijian said in Beijing, coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the historic decision that ruled against their expansive claims in the WPS.
Previously, Mr. Duterte said the arbitration ruling in The Hague amounted to nothing as it could never be enforced, because it would likely mean going to war with regional superpower China which the Philippines cannot afford to do.
“I’ll tell you it’s just a piece of paper. I’ll throw that in the wastebasket,” he said in a press briefing in Malacanang last May 2021.
Palace critics said Duterte had purposely disregarded the arbitral ruling in exchange for lucrative investments, in particular the $24 billion promised by Beijing last year but which had not yet materialized so far.
Vice President Leni Robredo lamented the dismissive remarks of Lijian as these were “unnecessary and unfortunate,” in the same breath calling out Duterte for his lax and timid stand on the WPS issue.
Militant groups Pamalakaya and Bayan urged Malacanang to file a protest against Lijian’s statements saying these were “akin to a spit in the face of Filipinos.”
Reports claimed that Zhao’s remarks were occasioned by the recent warning of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that his government will defend the Philippines against an attack by China in the WPS in line with the 1951 US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty.