Raise arbitral tribunal award at UN General Assembly, Duterte urged

Published July 14, 2020, 4:07 PM

by Roy Mabasa

With only two years left in his administration, it’s about time that President Duterte raises the July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration award on the Philippine petition in the South China Sea before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this September, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said on Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Del Rosario made this remark at the opening session of the ADR Institute’s “A New Regional Order” web conference where he spoke on measures on how the Philippines can seek redress and make China pay for the “crimes” it committed in the South China Sea using the arbitration award.

“In the remaining years of his term, we believe that President Duterte may still have the opportunity to fulfill his promise to the Filipino people to raise the Award: this time, not before Chinese President Xi Jinping, but before the world,” Del Rosario said.

He remembered that when Duterte decided to shelve the award in expectation of loans and investments from China, the former also promised the Filipino people to raise the award at a “proper time.”

During the President’s visit to Beijing in 2019, he claimed that he raised the issue of the award before President Xi Jinping but was reportedly rebuffed by the Chinese leader. 

“We knew that this was a futile exercise because China has been telling the world from the beginning that it rejects the award,” Del Rosario said.

The former DFA secretary who was one of the chief architects of the successful Philippine petition before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said the upcoming UNGA meeting is the opportune time to promote the Philippine position regarding the enforcement of the award and rely on the assembly to serve as “not only the primary promoter of the rule of law but also the court of world public opinion.”

Del Rosario believes that the award has multilateral support within the ASEAN region itself because it benefits the coastal States of the South China Sea such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and, Brunei, whose lands and seas are encroached upon by China’s nine-dash line.

Moreover, he said the award also benefits the rest of the other countries in the world like the United States, the European Union, and Japan “because it affirms the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the United States took an unprecedented position of officially dismissing China’s outrageous “nine-dashed-line” claim in the South China Sea, citing the July 12, 2016 arbitral tribunal decision that sided squarely with the Philippines.