Duterte urged to raise arbitral ruling on South China Sea row at UN

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — Two retired Supreme Court justices and a former foreign secretary are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to assert the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines' victory on the West Philippine Sea.

In a joint statement during the weekend, retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio, retired associate justice Conchita Carpio Morales (who has also served as Ombudsman), and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario urged Duterte to raise the Hague ruling before the United Nations General Assembly, which is set to convene in New York on September 15.

The trio said Duterte must use the remainder of his term to gain the support of the 193 UN member nations on the ruling of a Permanent Court of Arbitration-backed tribunal that upheld the Philippines' sovereign rights to its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and invalidated Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

"President Duterte must raise the Arbitral Ruling at the UNGA this September as he will have just one more opportunity to gain the support of more countries next year in the same forum," their statement said.

"If the Arbitral Ruling is raised this year, we are enabled to work multilaterally and bilaterally in preparation for UNGA 2021 when our chances will have significantly been improved," the said.

They added that Filipinos must not waste the chance to be heard, having lost opportunities in the past by shelving the Arbitral Ruling since 2016.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea, but have previously expressed their own pushback against China.

Morales, Carpio, and Del Rosario also slammed the previous remark of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that there is no need to "re-litigate" the Philippines' case.

"Bringing the Arbitral Ruling to the UNGA is not re-litigating the case. It is enforcing that we already won," they claimed, noting that the international law does not have a "world policeman."

“The Philippines has the strongest position among all nations to bring the South China Sea issue to the fore," they said.

Locsin reiterated his stance in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday and claimed that raising China's misdeeds before the UNGA could only trigger a reopening of the case which could be interpreted differently.

"I can't afford to lose our arbitral award. I don't want to go down in history as the guy who lost it," he said.

Locsin, however, said that he would recommend terminating government contracts with Chinese firms involved in building an artificial island in the disputed territory.

The United States has blacklisted state-run companies and officials involved in the militarization of the South China Sea.

Despite the ruling, China has continued with its island-building activities in features covering the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.