MANILA - Malacañang assured Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio Friday that President Rodrigo Duterte would never abandon the Philippines' legal victory in the South China Sea after the magistrate said the chief executive has “no authority” to set it aside.
Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo twitted Carpio, saying the justice “appears to relish in finding fault in what the President says even if there is none” as he emphasized that Manila’s legal victory is binding “forever.”
“The President has not abandoned, nor is he abandoning, and neither will he ever abandon the favorable arbitral award issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, more so with respect to our rights in the West Philippine Sea,” Panelo said.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
“The good Justice can rest assured that the President is always finding ways to resolve the dispute and will not waive any right nor give any consent that will undermine our sovereign claims in the process,” he said.
Carpio, a staunch advocate of Manila’s rights in the South China Sea, earlier urged the Duterte administration to be vigilant on any possible infringement of China on the Philippines’ sovereign rights under the tribunal ruling handed down at the start of the President’s term in July 2016.
Carpio was part of the Philippine delegation during deliberations on the case at The Hague during the Aquino administration. The case was initiated in 2013.
“In this legal sense, the President under Philippine law has no authority to ‘set aside’ the arbitral ruling issued by the Hague tribunal,” Carpio said in a statement.
It was a response to the President's statement Tuesday, where the latter said Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that Beijing was ready to be a minority partner in a joint energy venture at the Recto (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea if Manila sets aside the arbitral victory, which Beijing does not recognize.
Panelo meanwhile explained that ties between Manila and Beijing are not limited to the longstanding maritime dispute, and therefore the President thinks it is “wise and prudent” to explore resources in the West Philippine Sea with China.
“Time and time again, PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) has stressed this fact – the arbitral ruling is final, binding and unappealable. It is there forever and ever, as in forever. Not only is it carved in stone but it is as permanent as the sun rising on the east,” he said.
The Palace official also assured Filipinos that the government continues to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea even as China refuses to acknowledge it.
“If there is no force in the meantime in any part of the world that the arbitral ruling can be enforced, neither is there any force on earth that can compel or intimidate the Philippines into abandoning or waiving it,” Panelo said.