Govt said it did all it can to assert PH rights in disputed waters

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The Duterte administration has done all that it could to assert the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark as the country commemorates the fifth anniversary of the historic arbitral ruling in The Hague, Netherlands which affirmed the Philippines’ territorial claims covered by the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) against China.

“We have done all that we could, given the absence po of an enforcement mechanism under international law,” he said in a press briefing in San Juan City.

He said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte affirmed the 2016 PCA verdict against China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea during the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Sept. 23, 2020.

“Since there is no police to enforce that, the government has taken all the steps to bring its decision to life, which was also included in the President’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in which he said that arbitration decision is already part of international law,” he said in Filipino.

Roque acknowledged the importance of commemorating the country’s arbitral win which covers the maritime territory.

“Although we should really celebrate that victory, the territorial dispute will continue because the only thing affected by the decision is the issue related to the sea,” he said in Filipino.

Since the sea dispute has yet to be resolved, Roque emphasized the importance of promoting close trade and investment relations between the Philippines and China.

“The territorial dispute is still ongoing, and the important thing is that while this dispute has yet to be resolved, it should be set aside first and make possible advances in the field of trade and investment,” he added in Filipino.

In his speech delivered before UNGA, Duterte said the ruling is “now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon.”

Duterte said his administration also rejects attempts to “undermine” the sea ruling that favors the Philippines.

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration case it lodged against China after the PCA in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim that covers nearly the entire South China Sea.

China refused to acknowledge the arbitral ruling and instead ramped up its militarization.

Apart from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam are also laying claim to parts of the contested sea.

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