Fresh from his five-day official visit to China, President Rodrigo Duterte went from “invoking” to “ignoring” the Philippines’ historic win on the South China Sea dispute at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
In a Sept. 10 speech, Duterte said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to “ignore” their conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea — the arbitral win included — in order to forge more “economic” agreements, such as on the joint oil and gas exploration in the area.
This contradicts Duterte and the Palace’s pronouncements prior to the visit that “the time has come” for the president to “invoke” the ruling.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said, however, that the memorandum of understanding and subsequent Terms of Reference on oil and gas exploration make it unnecessary to set aside the arbitral ruling:
“The terms of reference really just fleshes out the memorandum of agreement which is very clear: no legal position of either side is compromised when you enter into this agreement.”
Source: ABS-CBN News, Joint oil, gas exploration deal won’t compromise PH arbitral win: Locsin, Sept. 11, 2019
In July 2016, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines, declaring certain features in the South China Sea to be within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It also deemed invalid China’s territorial claim based on the nine-dash line, which covers almost 80 percent of the entire South China Sea. Other countries — Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam — also claim parts of the area. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte says the name ‘South China Sea’ reflects China’s historical claim)
Amid the territorial dispute, Duterte has cozied up to China since assuming the country’s top post in 2016. With only three years left in his term, even the president’s “jokes” on the matter have changed tune.
Back in April 2016, then presidential candidate Duterte said he would “ride a jet ski” to the West Philippine Sea carrying the Philippine flag to “stake [the country’s] claim” if China rejects the PCA ruling. In March 2018, he admitted that was a “joke.”
Now, Duterte, in the same Sept. 10 speech, said should a war break out with China because of the dispute, he would rather “hide”:
“I want [former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert] Del Rosario and [Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio] Carpio leading the way. Ako magtago lang ako sa kusina doon sa barko, hindi ako magpunta doon sa deck (I will just hide in the boat’s kitchen. I won’t go out on the deck).”
Source: RTVMalacanang, Oath-Taking Ceremony of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC), Presidential Photojournalists Association (PPA), and Malacañang Cameramen Association (MCA), Sept. 10, 2019, watch from 1:03:35 to 1:03:56
Watch how the president’s stance on the PCA ruling evolved.
Permanent Court of Arbitration, South China Sea Arbitration Award, July 12, 2016
Permanent Court of Arbitration, PRESS RELEASE: SOUTH CHINA SEA ARBITRATION AWARD, July 12, 2016
RTVMalacanang, Press Briefing, Aug. 6, 2019
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