MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he would raise a controversial arbitral ruling on the South China Sea with China’s leaders, and vowed not to surrender any sovereignty or deviate from the July award by the tribunal in The Hague, according to Reuters.
Duterte acknowledged there had been some concerns in the Philippines that his rapid moves to forge close ties with China could impact the country’s maritime sovereignty, but he said that would not happen.
The July 12 award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague dealt a blow to China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea, and it has refused to recognize the case.
Since the ruling, Duterte has taken a conciliatory approach to Philippine-Chinese relations.
During his presidential campaign, Duterte said he was willing to “set aside” his country’s dispute with China over the latter’s claims in the South China Sea in return for infrastructure investment. Duterte also said in April, prior to his election, that he would be willing to “shut up” about disputes in the sea if China provided aid.
While China remains broadly unpopular with people in the Philippines, Duterte’s overtures have likely been enabled by China’s restraint in the South China Sea since his election.
“And essentially the overtures we’ve seen after the July 12 ruling has been in big part enabled by the fact that China hasn’t really pushed to change facts on the water in the South China Sea, which might force Duterte to take some sort of drastic action," Ankit Panda, an editor at The Diplomat, said on the magazine’s Asia Geopolitics podcast.
Ahead of his much-anticipated trip to China this week, the Philippine president promised the arbitration ruling would come up.
Duterte said it would be talked about, and the parameters of the award would be discussed, but there would be no "hard imposition” of it, during his visit to Beijing this week.
“I will not bargain anywhere, we will continue to insist that is ours, the international tribunal decision will be taken up,” he told a news conference in his home city of Davao, according to Reuters.
(Reporting for Reuters by Martin Petty)