PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that he has no plans of bringing up the ruling by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague at the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit.
Speaking to reporters, Duterte said the July 12, 2016 decision of Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands that favors the Philippines in its petition against China over the escalating sea row is a matter that concerns only the two countries.
"The most important thing really is whether we like it or not – everybody is interested – we will skip, I will skip the arbitral ruling. It is not an issue here in the Asean," Duterte said.
"Arbitral, it's only between China and the Philippines. So I’ll skip that. That's a different [matter]," he added.
Duterte's draft message for Asean, which was sent to reporters, does not contain the ruling on the disputed South China Sea.
The draft statement merely states that the completion of crafting of the code (COC) of conduct framework on the contested waters by mid-2017.
Duterte said the COC in the South China Sea, which is expected to be tackled by Asean member states and China in May, would be raised at the summit.
"But the code of conduct in the sea, that’s a different story. It must be taken up but we will not talk about sovereignty or what part of the islands there, I said, because that is not an issue before the Asean summit. What is at issue is the conduct of the parties in the use of South China Sea," he said.
On July 12 last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights within the South China. Despite this, Duterte has refused to uphold the decision and just resort to a diplomatic approach as he seeks to enhance the Philippines’ ties with China.
Duterte said raising the arbitral ruling with Asean leaders was not necessary because it would only sow tension between China and the Philippines.
He added that he does not need the backing of the regional bloc's heads of states on the Philippines' claim to the contested island, believing that it would only sow rift and bring danger to the Filipino people.
"No need [to get Asean leaders’ support]. It a concern of the Philippines. What’s the most that can happen actually? You might want to extrapolate something out of it," the President said.
"Let's go to what will happen. You go there, make a noise [and] strong protest. Will they listen? China said they’re completely ignoring the arbitral. So what more can we ask for it? Make noise? For what? What is the use of promoting something which will be of a danger to us?"
Duterte said invoking the international court's verdict to Chinese government would be a bad precedent because it would only result in a fight between China and the Philippines.
"What could also be the purpose of discussing if you cannot do anything?" the President said. "You must realize, so you will stop dreaming, we cannot on our own enforce the arbitral judgment." (SunStar Philippines)