By Rjay Zuriaga Castor


Malacañang on Wednesday was 'not surprised' when China still refused to acknowledge the 2016 arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute, calling the historic award "illegal, null, and void."

Palace spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement following Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's  pronouncement rejecting the country's excessive nine-dash line claim in the contested waters and called the arbitral victory as "a piece of waste paper.”

“The award of the arbitration is illegal, null, and void. It is nothing more than a piece of waste paper,” Zhao told reporters in Beijing on Monday.

Roque in response said that China's position on the historic Arbitral Award was a no surprise. He, however, maintained that President Duterte considered the Hague-based UN Court ruling already a part of the international law.

“Hindi na tayo nagulat noong sinabi ng Chinese Foreign Ministry na ang July 2016 Arbitral Award ay ‘a piece of waste paper,’” he said.

“Bilang sagot sa sinabi (nang) spokesperson ng Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ang tingin po natin ang award ay kabahagi na ng international law,” he added.

Taking a swipe after Vice President Leni Robredo expressed dismay over how the government had been handling the situation following Zhao’s remark, Roque said: “Hindi ko po alam kung anong tapang ang gusto niyang ipakita pero nagsalita na po ang Presidente malinaw, matapang sa UN General Assembly... Kung hindi po ‘yan matapang, hindi ko po alam kung ano ang matapang."

The 2016 UN Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling debunked China's claim of sovereignty over the entire WPS, which invalidated Beijing’s massive nine-dash line claims over the waterway and upheld the Philippines' legal claims in the contested area. 

In September 22, 2020, President Duterte spoke at the virtual 75th United Nations General Assembly where he said the country firmly reject attempts that undermine Philippines' legal claims in the contested area. 

“The Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it,” Duterte said in his prerecorded speech delivered to the opening of the assembly. 

Report source: Manila Bulletin