MALACAÑANG said on Wednesday the Philippines is setting aside temporarily the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling in favor of the Philippines in the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, to take advantage of economic benefits resulting from better relations with China.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador B. Panelo said it is better to set aside temporarily the arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines, instead of trying to enforce it against China with minimal chances for success. This makes the ruling “a mere paper judgment,” he said.
“Even if we have an arbitral ruling, it’s not being enforced. So instead of quarrelling about that issue of enforcing it, we found aspects which could be beneficial to both countries, and that became the policy of President Duterte,” Panelo said.
Panelo, however, clarified the setting aside of the arbitral ruling is only temporary, and the Philippines will assert its rights under the ruling in the future.
“If we can’t implement it, we might, as well, let it stay there for a while, until such time that we can do something about it. We can use it next time or in the future. The future will tell when the right time to use it will be,” Panelo said.
Panelo also brushed aside the recommendations from Congress for the Philippines to file a diplomatic protest and try to enforce the arbitration court’s ruling.
“All of these things may be discussed on the diplomatic table. But if we protest, even as we cannot implement the ruling, it will only deepen the wounds inflicted by each country upon the other,” he said.
Earlier, Duterte said any negotiations with China will not go beyond the four corners of the arbitral ruling in favor, which invalidated China’s “nine-dash line” on which China anchors its claim of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands close to the Philippines.
However, with the billions of dollars already starting to come from China as investments in infrastructure in the Philippines, that policy had apparently been already shelved in exchange for the financial assistance from China.
“Is it not true that bilateral relations now are stronger? We can see there are a lot of offers, projects, loans and many other things which we need for our country to prosper because we’re being left behind,” Panelo said.