Malacañang said Saturday President Rodrigo Duterte would deal with the arbitral award on the disputed West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, as the President clarified he did not abandon the tribunal’s ruling in favor of the Philippines’ protest against China’s nine-dash line that covers nearly the whole of the disputed region.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte made the clarification with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc who brought up the issue during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 32nd Asean Leaders’ Meeting in Singapore.
“It [WPS] was definitely discussed. And I guess the President just wanted to make very clear that we are not abandoning, ignoring or setting aside the arbitral’s ruling which is in our favor,” Roque said.
Duterte further gave assurance that he would address the issue involving the UN-backed ruling on the WPS in due course, the Palace spokesperson said.
Roque admitted it was the first time that he personally heard the President’s position favoring discussion of the arbitral ruling on the WPS, in contrast to his previous pronouncements.
Roque said: “Although that has been his position even in the past—that he is not abandoning it, he is not relinquishing it. But he made it very clear, to a head of state that he recognizes that the gains of the arbitral award and that he will refer to the arbitral award in due course.