You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Philippines' Duterte Says Court Ruling Against China is Trash to Be Thrown Away

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/6/2021 John Feng
Rodrigo Duterte posing for the camera: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to his nation in a pre-recorded address on May 5, 2021. © RTVM Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to his nation in a pre-recorded address on May 5, 2021.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration's historic ruling in favor of the Philippines against Beijing's vast maritime claims in the South China Sea is "just a piece of paper" to be thrown in the trash, President Rodrigo Duterte told his nation on Wednesday.

In the pre-recorded address, Duterte dismissed critics who pushed him to be harder on China, which he has described as Manila's friend and "benefactor."

The Philippines president's remarks appeared to be made partly in resignation of the fact that the 2016 ruling at The Hague, which the Chinese government rejected in full, did not help the countries resolve their strife in the contested South China Sea, where other claimants include Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

"They filed a case, we won. That paper, in real life, between nations, that paper is nothing," Manila-based Rappler quoted him as saying.

Former president Benigno Aquino III filed Philippines v. China under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2013. The arbitral tribunal handed the Philippines a resounding victory just two weeks after Duterte had taken office, but disputes in the sea remain.

"I pursued it, nothing happened," Duterte added. "Actually, in street parlance, I would tell you, 'Give that to me? Son of a b*****, that's just a piece of paper. I'll throw it in the wastebasket."

The president gave the comments while waving around and eventually throwing aside a napkin on his desk.

Just eight months earlier, however, Duterte unequivocally backed the Hague ruling during a speech at the United Nationals General Assembly.

"The Philippines affirms that commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitral award," he said. "The award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon."

When it comes to South China Sea disputes, Duterte's approach to dealings with Beijing is often a departure from the attitudes of his cabinet and subordinate government agencies.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. likened China to an "ugly oaf" and told the country to "get the f*** out" of Philippine waters.

His fiery tweet came after his department filed a protest over Chinese coast guard vessels which Manila said were impeding Philippines patrols in late April. There was also an "increasing presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia in Philippines maritime zones," the Department of Foreign Affairs reported.

Locsin Jr. later issued a public apology to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for hurting his feelings.

Philippines authorities patrolling the country's exclusive economic zone in what it calls the West Philippines Sea reported hundreds of Chinese fishing boats anchored in the waters off its Whitsun Reef in March.

A separate patrol last month found 240 suspected maritime militia vessels swarming Philippines-controlled islands in the South China Sea. Vessels belonging to the China Coast Guard and Chinese navy were also in the region.

Manila said Chinese warships were contributing to the "militarization of the area."

Related Articles

Start your unlimited Newsweek trial


More from Newsweek

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon