MALACAÑANG on Tuesday said the insistence of Philippines' sovereign rights over the contested islands in the South China Sea will not be based on the United Nations' (UN) arbitral court ruling to "avert a confrontation with China."
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella maintained that the President is committed to pushing for diplomatic approach with China in addressing the disputes in the resource-rich waters.
"Confrontation does not serve the interest of our country and that is why we are committed to a process of engagement and negotiation that will ensure that our rights are respected and protected well within the future," Abella said in a press conference.
Abella’s statement came after Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Monday that the Chief Executive has not done anything yet in defending the Philippine territory and marine entitlements.
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Carpio acknowledged that Duterte is friendly with China but stressed that it is high time for the President to invoke the international court’s ruling that favors his administration over the overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
Carpio also said that if the Philippines will lose its battle in the maritime dispute, "we will lose it forever [because] China will not give it back."
Duterte earlier slammed Carpio for his statement about the South China Sea ruling but "doing nothing about the territorial row between the Philippines and China."
Carpio is among the Philippine delegation that defended the case seeking to invalidate China's "nine-dash line" before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
On July 12, 2016, the arbitral court ruled that China has no basis to lay claim over the South China Sea. Duterte, however, refused to raise the international court’s decision with China as he seeks to mend ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Abella, however, said Duterte remains focused on protecting the Philippines’ sovereignty and ensuring that the country is still "conflict-free."
He added that so far, Duterte’s better relations with Xi achieved "one, substantive progress in talks with Bejing; two, reduced tensions; [and] three, economic cooperation."
"With all due respect, first, the President has huge respect for Justice Carpio. And he can assure the justice and the people of the Philippines that the policies of this administration are not only directed in protecting this sovereignty of the republic. They’re also directed in ensuring that our nation and our region remain conflict-free," Abella said. (SunStar Philippines)