Don't 'taunt or flaunt' arbitral ruling on West Philippine Sea

WITH the impending decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday does not see the need to "taunt or flaunt" whichever country will win the case.

“We have to make up our minds but we can also prepare our people on where do we go. I’m referring to the arbitral judgment of the court,” Duterte said in his first meeting with his appointed Cabinet officials.

“Let’ say the country is cliffhanger here because if we decide right, we might also find some alleviations of some of the problems here. But if we do so much – it should be a soft-landing for everybody because if there will be a decision, I don’t really taunt or flaunt it,” he added.

The decision on the case by the Philippines contesting China’s claim to most of the West Philippine Sea is expected to be released on July 12.

Duterte said he will thoroughly scrutinize the decision once it comes out because he will put the country away from “awkward position.”

“We will study progressively how we can use that. Of course, it would be a moral victory but we can’t put in an awkward position… We have to solve some problems that involve violence. I don’t want it. God knows I really do not want to declare any fighting with anybody. If we can have peace by just talking, I would really be very happy,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. agreed that studying the implications and ramifications of the ruling on the territorial row is more necessary, saying he is also “averse” to the idea that the Philippines make stronger statements should it win the case.

“Those who are concerned about ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security in the place, they seem to project the impression that if the decision will come out and it would be in our favor, they would like for us to make stronger statements. I am averse to that idea,” Yasay said.

“The first thing that we will do when we got that decision is to study its implications and its ramifications. What does it mean if we win? There are lots of nuisances that we do not know as yet, it could go either way, it may be China,” he added.

Insofar as the Philippines is concerned, Yasay said it only sought for the declaration of its rights, in terms of the exclusive economic zone or maritime entitlements.

“The bottomline question is: What will happen if the decision is in our favor? Meaning, that the arbitral tribunal will make a declaration about the legality of the nine-dash line and will say that it’s part of our economic zone,” he said.

Yasay, however, expressed concern that China might retaliate against the Philippines, should it win. He then appealed to China to avoid violence, which may harm Filipino fishermen.

“What if, in the phase of these circumstances, China will dig in and put us in a test? They will disallow again our fishermen from fishing in our Scarborough Shoal. I think, if this should happen, there is no point for us,” Yasay said. (Sunnex)

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