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Amid retraction calls, Palace says Duterte's statement on WPS should be put in context

Malacañang on Monday dismissed calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to retract his remarks on the country's legal claim over the West Philippine Sea, saying what the President had said should be put in context.

"Ilagay natin lahat sa konteksto, perhaps, sa lenggwahe ng Presidente. ‘Yung 'piece of paper' under international law, walang established enforcement mechanism," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a press briefing.

(We should put what the President said in context. The piece of paper comment refers to the fact that international law has no established enforcement mechanism.)

Duterte came under fire recently for allegedly belittling the Philippines'  victory in the arbitral case it filed against China's massive claim over the South China Sea, specifically his statement calling the ruling a piece of paper.

"Sa totoong buhay, 'yang papel, wala 'yan... Sa usapang bugoy, sabihin ko sa'yo, ibigay mo sa akin, sabihin ko sa'yo p—ng ina papel lang 'yan. Itatapon ko 'yan sa waste basket," Duterte had said.

(In hard reality, that's just a piece of paper. I can throw it in the waste basket.)

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has started a signature drive urging Duterte to withdraw his statement, while a group of San Beda graduates issued a "fraternal statement" asking the same from the President.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, in a July 2016 ruling, rejected China's massive claim of sovereignty in the entire South China Sea and outlawed China's aggression against Filipino fisherfolk in Scarborough Shoal which the court deemed as a traditional fishing ground for all.

The same court also ruled that Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Amid the criticism, Duterte made a turnaround last week when he said that he will not pull out Philippine ships in West Philippine Sea even at the cost of his life. 

Roque said such a position proves the President will not forsake his fellowmen.

"Bagamat isasantabi niya ang hindi mapagkasunduan at isusulong ang puwede pagkasunduan, hindi nabago ang posisyon ng Presidente na itataguyod niya ang soberanya, pangangalagaan niya ang teritoryo ng bansa," Roque said in the press briefing.

(While the President is shelving disputes and is pushing for cooperation, his position to defend the country’s sovereignty and territory has not changed.) —KBK, GMA News