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Palace: Arbitral ruling ‘useless’ for now due to lack of enforcement

Malacañang said Tuesday the arbitration ruling that invalidated China's excessive claims in the South China Sea is "useless" for now due to a lack of mechanism to enforce the decision.

President Rodrigo Duterte temporarily set aside the 2016 ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in order to forge stronger trade and economic ties with China even as he promised to raise the decision at a proper time during his term which ends in June 2022.

China, whose leader Xi Jinping is in the Philippines for a two-day state visit, does not recognize the ruling and has maintained sovereignty and ownership over the resource-rich waters.

"The arbitral ruling cannot [be] taken away from us. It will be there forever but meanwhile who will enforce it? There is no power on Earth that can enforce it. The United Nations cannot. The United States cannot," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a news conference.

Asked if the ruling is useless, Panelo said: "As of now? Yes. But as I said we can get what we are supposed to have by negotiation."

The Palace official said the government can use the decision as a leverage in negotiations aimed at settling the maritime dispute in the South China Sea whose features and waters are contested in part or in whole by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China.

He broached the idea of using international pressure to convince China to respect the ruling. 

"Obviously they [China] are not [respecting the decision]. Otherwise they would have given that property to us," Panelo said.

"Perhaps if all countries of the world will unite and pressure China, who knows? In other words, there must be a collective action by the countries of the world and either persuade or pressure China into respecting an arbitral decision."

Panelo added the government cannot give up the claim "because it is already ours."

"We'd won it. It will be there forever," he said.

The Philippines is currently the dialogue coordinator between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which are negotiating for a code of conduct which aims to prevent conflicting territorial claims in the resource-rich waters from erupting into violent confrontations or worse, an economically-devastating major conflict.

At the ASEAN-China Summit in Singapore last week, Duterte delivered a common statement in which both parties vowed “full and effective implementation” of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the “expeditious conclusion of an effective” COC.

ASEAN and China also said they expect an initial review of the draft negotiating text for the COC to happen next year.

Duterte, however, warned the United States and its allies against creating “frictions” that could provoke Beijing, saying China was “already in possession" of the South China Sea. — MDM, GMA News