Duterte asserts: South China Sea Arbitral Award must be honored by all nations

For the second time, President Duterte has stressed the importance of the 2016 Arbitral Award of the South China Sea before the United Nations (UN), saying no country can disregard it nor diminish its importance.

President Duterte virtually delivers his speech at the 76th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2021 (Manila time). (RTVM/UN/MB Screenshot)

Duterte made the statement as he virtually addressed the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday morning, September 22 (Manila time).

In his speech, the President stressed the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes, including the one in the South China Sea.

According to Duterte, the Philippines is one with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other stakeholders in ensuring the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, security, and prosperity.

"The 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the 2016 Arbitral Award of the South China Sea provide a clear path towards a just, fair, and win-win solution for all," Duterte said.

He insisted that all countries should see the said award for what it is and stressed that nobody can disregard it.

"The award must be seen for what it is: a benefit across the world to all who subscribe to the majesty of the law," he said.

"No amount of willful disregard by any country however big and powerful can diminish the Arbitral Award's importance," he added.

The President noted how it is vital that all countries fully and firmly commit to the rule of law.

"A world without law is a world of disaster," he said.

"For the weak is at the mercy of the strong, there can therefore be no other acceptable basis for a global order but the law," he added.

In September 2020, President Duterte spoke at the virtual 75th UNGA where he said the country will not allow any country to undermine the landmark ruling made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on July 12, 2016.

"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, a remark that earned him praises even from his critics.

However, China continues to reject the ruling with Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian referring to it as a "piece of waste paper." Malacañang was not surprised by this statement.

The said ruling had rejected China's excessive nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.

International bodies, including the European Union (EU), have expressed concern over tensions in the disputed waters. The EU has also opposed any action that could endanger the peace and stability in the region.

"We urge all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS, including its dispute settlement mechanisms," the powerful body said.

"The EU recalls in this regard the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016," it added.

The EU has likewise expressed support for the crafting of a legally binding Code of Conduct.