MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines under the Duterte administration continues to defend its rights over the West Philippine Sea even as he said there is no need to enforce the landmark ruling won by the country against China.
"I'm not sure what they mean by enforcing an arbitral decision because an arbitral decision is binding on parties thereto," said Roque on Thursday, July 12, the 2nd anniversary of the historic Hague ruling.
Asked by Rappler if he means there is no need for enforcement, Roque said in a message: "Who will enforce? It's self-executory as it's binding on parties thereto."
"We continue to assert our sovereignty and sovereign rights, but we have decided to move on on issues that are non-controversial," he said in a press conference.
He questioned the call of former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario for the Duterte administration to enforce the ruling.
"I don't know what makes him an authority to give that view.... It clearly underscores the fact that some individuals, including the former secretary of foreign affairs, [do] not fully comprehend the nature of arbitration," said Roque. (READ: How to enforce Hague ruling? PH lead counsel explains)
It was under Del Rosario's watch as Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief when the Philippines took China to court.
Roque, asked why he thinks Del Rosario does not understand the nature of arbitration, said: "Because he's calling for enforcement when clearly arbitration is binding.... Whether or not China will acknowledge it, China is bound by it because that is the nature of arbitration."
However, China's refusal to acknowledge the ruling, coupled with the Philippines' decision to shelve it for later, has made the ruling ineffective in changing the situation on the ground.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.