Faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Law (UP Law) said on Sunday, May 30, President Duterte’s remarks trivialize the country’s arbitral victory against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea.
In a televised address on May 6, Duterte said the Philippines’ arbitral win against China in a maritime dispute was just “a mere piece of paper than can be thrown away in a trash bin.”
The faculty members, in a statement, asserted that the 2016 Arbitral Award “is a victory and the pride of the Filipino people; it does not belong to the waste can.”
“Words have power, shaped by the circumstances under which they are uttered. To say that China is in possession of the WPS is a falsehood. China has neither a legal nor physical hold of the WPS,” the statement read.
Duterte’s remarks, they reiterated, “achieve nothing but encourage further disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the rule of law.”
“Words have power, especially when internalized by the people who seek clarity, reassurance, and leadership in the most challenging times. President Duterte’s statements are disheartening to Filipino fishermen who look to him to safeguard the Philippines’ sovereign rights in waters which, by international law, are for our exclusive benefit,” the statement further read.
“They are demoralizing to our uniformed personnel who bear the heavy burden of holding the line and defending our sovereign rights and sovereignty over our seas.”
The faculty members likewise urged Duterte to retract his statements and recall his duty to act “in the best interest of the Philippines and the Filipino people.”
Beijing’s claim to the West Philippine Sea, including areas under the Philippines’ EEZ, was declared illegal in July 2016 by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration following a lawsuit filed by Manila in 2013.
China, however, does not recognize the ruling.
Last week, eighteen law school governments and organizations scored Duterte’s “inconsistent” stance on the issue over the West Philippine Sea, where Beijing’s incursions have continued.