Duterte Likens Philippines' Legal Win Vs. China to 'Piece of Paper'
President Rodrigo Duterte has likened the Philippines' legal victory against China before an international arbitration court to a "piece of paper," adding that in "real life," the situation in the West Philippine Sea is dictated by who is more powerful.
Duterte said he "pursued" the ruling that favored Manila but "nothing happened." His predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III initiated the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague but the decision was handed down less than one month after the former Davao City mayor assumed the presidency in June 2016.
"‘Yang papel sa totoong buhay between nation, ‘yang papel ‘yan, wala ‘yan. Kung sino iyong tigas, United States, Britain ‘pagka ginusto nilang gayon, tayo nanalo, ngayon pagdating ko ang barko nandiyan sa West Philippine Sea, China boat, ship tayo wala na," he said in a taped address to the nation aired on Wednesday before midnight.
"Sabi nila, itong papel sa kaso, nanalo tayo i-pursue mo. Pinurusue ko. Walang nangyari. Actually, sa usapang bugoy sabihin ko yo, 'Bigay mo sa akin,' sabihin ko sa 'yo 'P*****ina, papel lang yan, itatapon ko yan sa waste basket,'" he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana believes the President's statement on the ruling is "correct," said the defense department's spokesman, Arsenio Andolong. "There is no international law enforcement body that can enforce it," he said.
"However, even without the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration) ruling, we will continue to defend what is rightfully ours," he said.
Duterte reset ties between the Philippines and China and pivoted Manila's foreign policy away from its treaty ally, Washington. During his state visit to Beijing just four months after he assumed office, Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping: "Even as we arrived in Beijing close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship."
The President again accused Aquino's foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario of ordering the Philippine Coast Guard to withdraw from the West Philippine Sea. While Duterte did not mention Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough shoal specifically during Wednesday night's speech, it was there in 2012 that Philippine ships withdrew while China refused to the same, giving the Chinese effective control of the rich fishing ground.
The Scarborough Shoal standoff was one of the catalysts of the Philippines' winning arbitration case. Duterte's Foreign Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr., filed a fresh diplomatic protest over China's harassment of the Philippine Coast Guard there in late April, also telling China in a tweet to "get the f*ck out." The President later said there was no need to be rude despite the festering dispute.
"The mystery question is, was it approved by President Aquino? Siya yung presidente. Nung umalis na yung coast guard hindi umalis ang China ship, ang naiwan doon na barko china na, wala na tyao yun hisotry nag file sila ng kaso nanalo tayo," he said.
Tensions flared up last March after a swarm of Chinese ships were spotted off Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, located inside the Philippines' EEZ or Exclusive Economic Zone.
China is claiming almost the entire South China Sea, overlapping with claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. Some $3.4 million worth of trade passes through the disputed waters annually and Washington has expressed concern over Beijing's actions in the region.
The Chinese government also refuses to recognize the UN court's ruling that favored the Philippines and invalidated its vast claims.
While the Philippines has filed numerous diplomatic protests over China's actions that endangered the lives of Filipino fishermen, Beijing has built artificial islands over the disputed reefs.
This story originally appeared on Reportr.world. Minor edits have been made by Esquiremag.ph editors.