Duterte says PH arbitral win vs. China 'just' a piece of paper, trash to be thrown away

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday called the country's arbitral victory against China's claims in the West Philippine Sea a piece of paper that he can throw away in a trash bin.

In his second late-night address this week, Duterte said the ruling affirming the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone is just a piece of paper that led to nothing.

"Nag-file sila ng kaso nanalo tayo... Sa totoong buhay, between nation, 'yang papel wala iyan... Actually... bigay mo sakin iyan sabihin ko 'P*t*ng-ina papel lang iyan'. Itatapon ko iyan sa waste basket," he said.

[Translation: They filed a case and we won. In real life, between nations, that paper is noting. Actually, if you give that to me, I will tell you 'Son of a ***** that is only a paper.' I will throw that in a waste basket.]

The President also said calls for him to bring current developments in the West Philippine Sea to the United Nations to continue the fight is "a waste of time and at the same time disrupting the good relations of China and the Philippines."

However, Duterte appeared at the United Nations General Assembly last September to affirm the Philippines' win against China in the Hague in 2016. He said the Philippines rejects any attempts to undermine the said arbitral ruling — a stand which gained praises even from his critics.

The arbitral tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) largely ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea. It invalidated Beijing's "historic rights" claim to nearly the entire waterway and recognized Philippine sovereign rights in areas within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf that China contests. Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.

On latest developments, the Philippine Coast Guard said in two separate instances it encountered a total of 12 Chinese maritime militia vessels at the Sabina Shoal, located around 70 nautical miles off Palawan in the West Philippine Sea. Prior to this, authorities also reported the presence of over 200 Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

Amid incursions, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said Philippine vessels will be deployed to continue law enforcement activities. Filipino fishermen are also urged to continue their livelihood despite China's announcement it will implement a "unilateral" fishing ban in some areas of the South China Sea from May 1 to August 16.

Duterte vs. Carpio

The word war between the President and retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio heated up further, with Duterte challenging Carpio to debate on the West Philippine Sea.

Both lawyers, Duterte said he will pose only three questions as to how China seized Scarborough Shoal: Who ordered the Philippine Navy to retreat from the area, what did the Aquino administration do after the arbitral win, and can we enforce the ruling?

"Itong Carpio naman, sulat nang sulat ng mga decision para sa kanyang utak lang. Isa ring ugok itong Supreme Court justice. Pareho man tayo abugado. Gusto mo magdebate tayo?"

[Translation: Carpio keeps writing decisions for his own mind. This Supreme Court justice is stupid. We are both lawyers. Do you want a debate?]

"I gladly accept the challenge anytime at the President's convenience," Carpio responded.

Duterte also lashed out at Albert del Rosario, the Foreign Affairs secretary during the term of President Benigno Aquino III, saying he should be investigated for withdrawing Philippine ships from Scarborough Shoal during a standoff with China in 2012.

Del Rosario previously reminded Duterte that it was Chinese President Xi Jinping who "deceitfully breached" the agreement mediated by the United States to jointly withdraw all ships in the area.

Carpio also urged Duterte to keep his promise that he will resign immediately if it can be proven he is wrong about his allegations against the former magistrate's role during the 2012 incident. He insisted he was not involved in diplomatic sea row discussions since he was a sitting Supreme Court justice at the time.

"President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor," Carpio said.

Carpio and Del Rosario have been vocal against Duterte's inaction and the importance of asserting the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Bar Association has offered to host the debate.

"As the oldest voluntary private organization of lawyers in the country, the PBA will provide a balanced arena fit for two lawyers of eminent stature and experience to dispassionately discuss the core issues relating to the dispute on the West Philippine Sea," PBA president Rico Domingo said in a statement Thursday.

The PBA said they would provide the forum at no cost to either party, and at a time and date that would be agreeable to both.

Carpio has since responded he was "happy" with the PBA's offer.