DAVAO CITY—President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said China must abide by the ruling of the United Nations tribunal on the arbitration case lodged by the Philippines against Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the entire South China Sea.
While China has snubbed the UN proceeding, Duterte said it must respect the decision of the tribunal, which is expected to be handed out soon.
“If there’s arbitration, I expect China to follow,” he said.
Duterte said he will be working closely with China, in particular in building railways to ease commuters’ woes, but this does not mean his administration will abandon its maritime claims.
“Just because you are building me a railway doesn’t mean I’m abandoning Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
“I told you, that is ours, you have no right to be there in our EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone.] Whether you believe it or not, [that’s] fine by me, but that will be the predicate of any further discussions about those territories of ours,” Duterte added.
Duterte also said he did not believe in President Benigno Aquino III’s flagship infrastructure vehicle, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, saying it was too slow.
He said the country was confronted with a crisis in crime as well as in its infrastructure.
“My crisis begins with Edsa,” he said, referring to Metro Manila’s main highway. “And the other crisis is that there are a lot of drugs and we are fighting them on so many fronts.”
“My first big project is establishment of railway for Filipinos. If there are people who want to help, of course why not?” Duterte said.
He acknowledged that the government did not have the funds to pursue a major rail project, but said he would work with trading partners—including China—to realize this goal.
“It’s Manila-Nueva Vizcaya then Manila-Sorsogon, Manila to Batangas, and the whole Mindanao,” he said.
In one of his controversial statements during the campaign, Duterte said that if China were to build a railway for the Philippines just like the ones they built in Africa, he’s willing to set aside disagreements over their territorial claims.
“Build us a rail for Mindanao, build us a railway from Manila to Bicol, [and] I will be happy. Let us not fight. Build us a railway because no nation on earth ever progressed without a railway,” Duterte said in April.