In his first-ever speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week, President Duterte did the unthinkable – lambast China’s sweeping territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Not a few were left with their jaws agape when Mr. Duterte, in a virtual address during the 75th session of the UN body in New York City, called to mind the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague favoring the Philippines, which he stressed is now part of international law.
“We rejects attempts (by China) to undermine it,” he said in a pre-taped message.
In 2016, the Court said China’s maritime claims, per its Nine-dash line which covers some 90 percent of the South China Sea (or WPS) has no legal basis, and affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone which China is now usurping.
China has totally rejected the Court’s ruling, which stemmed from a case in 2013 by Duterte’s predecessor, which called China’s claim as “excessive” and “exaggerated.”
France, Germany and the United Kingdom, in a note verbale to the UN, had earlier dissed China’s actions in the WPS as illegal since it does not comply with international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty.
“We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for,” Duterte said.
However, his administration has refused to file new cases against China violating the UNCLOS because the Philippines cannot do away with their investments, such as the $10-billion Sangley Point International Airport and the multi-billion dollar 208-hectare land reclamation project in Davao City.
Photo: Presidential Communications/ UN News