MANILA - In his first speech at the United Nations General Assembly since taking office, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday rejected what he called attempts to undermine the Philippines’ victory in a 2016 ruling on the South China Sea.
Duterte said his administration is keeping its commitment to international agreements with the territorial row in the South China Sea, which the country calls the West Philippine Sea.
“The Philippines affirms that commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Seas) and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” he said.
The 2016 decision on the arbitration case by the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled the Philippines had exclusive sovereign rights of the area and invalidated China’s “nine-dash line” over it.
“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,” Duterte said.
Duterte thanked other countries supporting the ruling.
“We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for — the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This – as it should - is the majesty of the law.”
Duterte has pursued warmer ties with China during his administration and has refrained from asserting rights to the territory amid China’s building of structures in artificial islands there.
In his 2020 State of the Nation Address, Duterte said he was “inutile” in the face of China’s claim of the territory, adding that diplomatic relations should be pursued with the global power unless the country was ready to go to war.