MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday likened Manila's arbitral victory that invalidated China's sweeping claims to the West Philippine Sea to a piece of "paper", which he said led to nothing.
Duterte said the administration of his predecessor Benigno Aquino Jr. pursued the arbitral case against Beijing after a standoff in the resource-rich waterway.
"Nag-file sila ng kaso, nanalo tayo. ‘Yang papel sa totoong buhay between nation, ‘yang papel ‘yan, wala ‘yan. Kung sino iyong tigas, United States, Britain ‘pag ginusto nila—" he said in a taped speech, without finishing his sentence.
(They filed a case, we won. That paper in real life between nations, that paper, it is nothing. Whoever is hard like the Unites States, Britain, if they want)
The 2012 standoff erupted at Scarborough Shoal, a small ring of reefs that lies about 230 kilometers from the Philippines and 650 kilometers from the nearest Chinese landmass.
A United Nations-backed court ruled in favor of Manila and junked Beijing's claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
But Duterte said Philippine ships were already gone from the area, while Chinese ships remained, when he assumed the presidency.
"Tapos sabi nila itong papel sa kaso nanalo tayo, i-pursue mo. Pinursue ko, walang nangyari," Duterte said. "Actually sa usapang bugoy, sabihin ko sa ‘yo, bigay mo sa akin, sabihin ko, ‘P***** *** papel lang ‘yan, itatapon ko ‘yan sa wastebasket.'"
(They tell me to pursue this paper because we won. I pursued it but nothing happened. Actually, if you give that to me, I will tell you, 'Son of *****, I will throw that in the wastebasket.')
China-controlled Scarborough is one of the region's richest fishing grounds and a flashpoint between the two countries, which have rival claims.
Manila and Beijing's spat flared again in March after hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted inside the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.
China has refused repeated calls from the Philippines to withdraw the boats, and tensions have intensified as Manila steps up maritime patrols in the area.
Once-frosty ties between the two countries had warmed under Duterte, who set aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment that critics say have largely not materialized.
Facing growing domestic pressure to take a harder line, Duterte said last week the Philippine maritime patrols would continue, insisting its sovereignty over the waters was not negotiable.
– With a report from Agence France-Presse