In an unprecedented move to assert the country’s position on the South China Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte raised the 2016 arbitral award that rejected Beijing’s excessive nine-dash-line claim before the United Nations General Assembly.
In his taped message for the UNGA, Duterte took a swipe at China for refusing to recognize the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
“The Philippines affirms that commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award. The 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,” the President said.
“We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for — the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This – as it should – is the majesty of the law,” Duterte added.
It was a complete turnaround from the earlier pronouncement of his spokesman, Harry Roque, who said bringing up the sea row before the UNGA was unrealistic and tantamount to black propaganda.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom earlier submitted a note verbale to the UN to assert the arbitral ruling, calling on all claimants to resolve their disputes peacefully.
Meanwhile, Duterte called the attention of UN member-states on rising geopolitical tensions amid the pandemic.
“Escalating tensions benefit no one. New flashpoints heighten fears and tend to tear peoples apart. When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat,” he said.
“Given the size and military might of the contenders, we can only imagine and be aghast at the terrible toll on human life and property that shall be inflicted if the ‘word war’ deteriorates into a real war of nuclear weapons and missiles.”
“I therefore call on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and Africa: if we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much. I heard it once said, and I say it to myself in complete agreement,” the President said.
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