President Rodrigo Duterte has described the country’s 2016 arbitral victory against Beijing as nothing but a “piece of paper” that he could easily throw away.
In a public address aired late Wednesday night, Duterte belittled the landmark ruling that reaffirmed the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and junked China’s “nine-dash line” doctrine, saying it should end up in the trash bin.
“They filed a case; we won. But that paper, in real life, between nations, that paper is nothing,” Duterte said in the vernacular, as he lambasted his critics anew for urging him to seek the ruling’s enforcement.
He also lamented “nothing” had happened even after he followed proposals to assert the arbitral award from The Hague-based arbitral court.
The Philippine leader also said that calling him to seek the United Nations (UN) support on the current developments in the WPS is “a waste of time.”
He also said it would merely disrupt the good relations of China and the Philippines as Beijing has refused to acknowledge the 2016 Hague ruling.
“I pursued it; nothing happened. Actually, in street parlance, I would tell you, ‘Give that to me. Son of a b*tch, that’s just a piece of paper.’ I’ll throw it in the wastebasket,” Duterte said.
His stance on the matter was far from his surprise move last year during his debut appearance at the UN General Assembly.
Duterte told world leaders at the assembly that the Philippines “rejects attempts to undermine” The Hague ruling which ruled in favor of the government.
In his previous speeches last week, amid simmering tensions between Manila and Beijing, Duterte has been insisting that invoking the Philippines’ arbitral victory in the WPS would constitute going to war with China.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who played key roles in the WPS arbitration, have criticized Duterte for his soft stance on the matter.
“Shout out to President Duterte that China is not in possession of the WPS. Shout out loud so that President Duterte will wake up from his deep sleep under the kulambo (mosquito net) and admit to the nation the truth — that China is not in possession of the WPS,” Carpio said last week.
Duterte, in his meeting with Cabinet members on Monday, had told his alter egos not to be “rude or disrespectful” to China as he emphasized the debt of gratitude the Philippines supposedly owed China for its Covid-19 vaccines.
It follows Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s expletives-laced tweet demanding the removal of Chinese ships in the WPS. Locsin has since apologized to Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a series of diplomatic protests against the presence of Chinese militia within Philippine territory.
Apart from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and self-governing Taiwan have overlapping claims in the WPS.