Philippines mulls bringing South China Sea dispute to UN as Hague ruling fails to deter Beijing


Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte may take the country’s fight for disputed islands in the South China Sea to the United Nations if Beijing blocks Manila’s access to Thitu Island.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte may raise before the UN General Assembly the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration if bilateral negotiations did not lead to a solution. His statement came after Chinese vessels continued to block the archipelago’s fishermen and access to Thitu island, which hosts a Philippine village.

“The arbitral ruling is there permanently. They cannot remove that from us but the problem is, it appears, we cannot enforce [it] simply because we don’t have the might,” Panelo said.

If nothing happens with the negotiations, “what’s the next step?”, he said.

“We are a member of the United Nations and there are cases where certain issues, which affect humanity, are raised in the General Assembly, then the General Assembly makes a unified action. Maybe that’s the next step,” he said.

Since the international maritime tribunal’s ruling, which came in the early days of Duterte’s presidency, the Philippines’ leader has shelved the country’s sovereignty claims over certain geographical features in the South China Sea, including Thitu Island, in favour of forging stronger ties with Beijing. Instead, Duterte has sought Chinese support to fund his “build, build, build programme”, while trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the South China Sea conflict.