Duterte affirms 2016 arbitral win by PH vs. China before UN

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) – President Rodrigo Duterte affirmed before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) the Philippines' win against China in a 2016 ruling over the South China Sea.

"The Philippines affirms that commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award. The Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon," said Duterte in his pre-recorded speech aired during the general debate of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday (Philippine time).

Duterte, who appeared for the first time in the UNGA in his four-year presidency, said the Philippines rejects any attempts to undermine the said arbitral ruling and assured the country's adherence to the UN Charter and the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes.

The President also thanked nations who supported the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) favoring the Philippines over China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

"We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This, as it should, is the majesty of the law," he added.

In a separate speech during the 75th UNGA, China President Xi Jinping assured its commitment to resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiation.

"We will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence. We have no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot war with any country," said Xi.

In its decision, the PCA said there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over most of the South China Sea using their "nine-dash line" claim. The ruling covered marine features in the West Philippine Sea, including the hotly contested Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, as part of the Philippine territorial waters.

China has repeatedly refused to recognize the PCA ruling and continued to reclaim islands in the disputed areas for military and research purposes.

In the fourth anniversary of the historic PCA ruling last July, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin Jr. called on China to adhere to the ruling, saying the arbitration award is "non-negotiable."

Last September 18, three European nations issued a joint note verbale to the UN challenging China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea and recognizing the 2016 arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines. These countries are France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.