President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave a strong statement today on the South China Sea to the United Nations General Assembly, describing a 2016 arbitral tribunal win versus China that struck down virtually all of the latter’s claims in the disputed waters as “beyond compromise.”
Duterte delivered the speech, his first at the world body’s annual meeting of member-state leaders, via a pre-recorded video. It shown shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered his remarks at the start of the 75th session of the General Assembly.
He affirmed, “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.”
In can be remembered that the 2016 UN decision refuted the legal basis for nearly all of China’s expansive maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea. It called Beijing’s insistence on holding “historic rights” to the waters there inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.
However, China has never recognized the 2016 arbitration award to the Philippines.
Duterte also added, “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,” Duterte went on to say. “This, as it should, is the majesty of the law.”
The Philippine president also discussed the climate crisis, the impact of the pandemic on migrants and stranded seafarers, and a call for a COVID-19 vaccine to be available globally.