MANILA, Philippines – While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte himself has refrained from raising the Hague ruling with China, Malacañang wants other countries to assert the arbitral award in order to "pressure" Beijing.
"There must be a collective action by countries of the world to either persuade or pressure China into respecting the arbitral decision," Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday, November 20.
Before calling for collective action, Panelo had said that China is "not respecting" the Philippines' 2016 legal victory and that it appears "other countries are not willing to help us (Philippines) enforce the same."
He said the only way for the Hague ruling to be enforced is if countries unite and "pressure China."
A reporter then pointed out that other countries cannot be expected to assert the Hague ruling if the Philippines itself, which won the ruling after suing China in an international tribunal, refuses to do so.
Panelo responded obliquely, saying: "As I said, the ruling is there, you cannot disown it. Nobody can take it away from you."
When the Philippines secured the international award in 2016, allies like the United States, Japan, and Australia urged Manila to use the award against China's expansive claim. They had said the award is legally-binding and must be respected by Beijing.
Yet Duterte has said raising the Hague ruling with China would only provoke it into a war the Philippines cannot possibly win. (READ: 2 years after winning, Duterte refuses to enforce Hague ruling)
PH to join call
Asked if the Philippines would abandon its policy of shelving the Hague ruling for later and join the call of other countries for its enforcement against China, Panelo replied in the affirmative.
"Of course, precisely the Philippines is the one involved," he said.
Duterte and Xi are expected to hold an expanded bilateral meeting and restricted meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday evening. (READ: Xi Jinping's schedule of activitiesin PH)
Panelo said it will be the Philippine President's call whether or not to discuss the Hague ruling with Xi.
Duterte has said he would not push the Hague ruling yet in order to foster a warm relationship with China that could bring economic gains. But he has also vowed to raise the ruling with Beijing within his term. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.