Duterte’s gambit calms sea tension but renders law irrelevant —experts

BEIJING—President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to set aside the country’s arbitration victory against China over claims in the South China Sea may have deescalated the tension in disputed marine area but it has made the landmark ruling irrelevant, analysts say.
Exactly a year after the tribunal under the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague handed down the July 12 decision, critics have remained at loggerheads with Duterte over his China gambit.
Duterte’s camp praises the immediate benefits of his pragmatic stance that prompted Beijing to allow Filipino fishermen to return to the Panatag Shoal, their traditional fishing ground into which they had been denied entry.
But critics have warned that Duterte’s gambit might have emboldened China to tread into “a dangerous path.”
“The Duterte administration’s choice to, in practice, accept China’s abuse of Philippine maritime rights and to put aside the ruling takes away this essential tool and could well encourage further Chinese infringements,” said Malcolm Cook of Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusok Ishak Institute.
“A might makes right is good for the strong and bad for the weaker,” Cook told GMA News Online.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who led efforts to bring the country’s disputes with China to international arbitration, lamented that despite providing China “a most favorable environment in the Philippines…we have not seen the change that we would have wanted from Beijing.”