Arbitral ruling may be set aside

September 11, 2019
Reef at Spratly islands
Reef in the disputed Spratly islands. / AFP / Ted ALJIBE

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is considering setting aside the 2016 arbitration ruling that upheld the country’s claims in the West Philippine Sea.

He narrated exchanges with China President Xi Jinping, who would not budge from his country’s claim on the disputed islands.

Duterte opted to work with the Chinese government in a joint exploration project with a 60-40 sharing scheme in favor of the Philippines.

“Set aside your claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies,” he said in a press briefing after the oath-taking of the Malacañang Press Corps, Malacañang Cameramen Association, and Presidential Photojournalists Association.

“They want to explore and if there is something sabi nila, ‘We would be gracious enough to give you 60%.’ Forty lang ang kanila. That is the promise of Xi Jinping,” he added.

Asked if the planned joint exploration of oil and gas resources would cover uncontested areas, Duterte said: “Kasi ‘yang exclusive economic zone is part of the arbitral ruling which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity.”

Duterte raised the arbitral ruling during a recent visit to China and meeting with President Xi Jinping on August 29 in Beijing.

Xi reiterated that China did not recognize the award and did not participate in the arbitration proceedings.

Last week, Duterte said he was not satisfied with Xi’s response but opted not to press the latter on the issue given that the Chinese leader was “under stress” due to the political unrest in Hong Kong.