Arbitral ruling on West PH Sea just a scrap of paper, Duterte says

Published May 6, 2021, 12:34 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The arbitral ruling that ruled in favor of the Philippines in a maritime dispute was nothing more than a scrap of paper to be thrown in the trash bin, President Duterte admitted Wednesday.

President Duterte delivers a televised address on May 5, 2021 (Malacañang)

Addressing the nation, the President argued that he asserted the arbitration award ruling that nullified China’s claims in the South China Sea but nothing happened. He expressed concern on whether the Hague ruling could even be enforced, admitting that a nation’s military might usually prevails in a conflict.

“Iyang papel sa totoong buhay between nation, iyang papel wala ‘yan. Kung sino ‘yong tigas, United States, Britain ‘yan, pagka ginusto nilang ganyan gawin (That paper, in real life between nations, that paper is nothing. Whoever is stronger like the United States, Britain, they will do whatever they want),” he said during a televised address Wednesday, May 5.

“Tapos sabi nila itong papel na sa kaso nanalo tayo i-pursue mo. Pinursue ko, walang nangyari. Sabi… Actually in — sa usapang bugoy, sabihin ko sa iyo ibigay mo sa’kin, sabihin ko sa’yo p***** i**, papel lang ‘yan. Itatapon ko ‘yan sa wastebasket (They told me to pursue this paper, our victory. I pursued it, nothing happened. In thug talk, I’d tell you son of a b*tch, that’s just a piece of paper. I’ll throw that in the wastebasket),” he added.

In 2016, the Hague-based tribunal ruled that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the South China Sea areas falling within the so-called nine-dash line. It also found that China supposedly violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by interfering with Filipino fishing and petroleum exploration and building artificial islands.

Beijing has refused to accept the ruling and instead sustain its expansion in the area. China has overlapping claims with the Philippines and other nations on the ownership of the South China Sea.

The Philippines has chosen to set aside the contentious territorial dispute and focus on enhancing cooperative ties with China for the meantime.

Tension in the disputed territory escalated after the Philippines protested the unlawful stay of Chinese ships in local waters. Some ships left the Julian Felipe Reef but others have reportedly scattered to other parts of the West Philippine Sea.

In his remarks Wednesday, the President resented that critics put the blame on him for the latest situation in the West Philippine Sea. He was also annoyed at being pressured to take the country’s dispute before the United Nations.

“Ipagpatuloy ko raw ‘yong away kasi (They told I should continue the fight because) I’m wasting my time and at the same time disrupting the good relations of China and the Philippines, he said.

Duterte, however, refused to antagonize China, which he regarded as a good friend and a benefactor of the nation. He maintained that the country owed a huge debt of gratitude to China.

“Do you know the dimensions of utang na loob? Iyong utang na loob iba ‘yong away. Ito para tayong ano diyan ang neighbor nila naghirap, oh tinulungan tayo. So sinabi ko salamat at may utang na loob tayo (Do you the dimensions of debt of gratitude? It’s debt of gratitude is different from conflict. So we’re like the neighbor in need they helped. I said thank you. We owe them a debt of gratitude),” he said.

And if ever the country gets the intervention from the UN or the United States, Duterte asked his critics if they were prepared to go to war. He said he would not send government troops to war over the sea dispute. “Why would I waste Filipino soldiers’ lives? Iyon ang totoo (that’s the truth),” he said.