(Eagle News)–President Rodrigo Duterte already invoked the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the Spratly Islands even before a Palace statement that invoked the same over the weekend, Malacañang said on Monday, April 15.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Duterte “effectively” did this when he told China to “lay off Pag-Asa Island.”
“Effectively his previous statement earlier—when he said ‘do not touch our property and if you do any harm to our soldiers, we will respond in kind’—that effectively has already made a very strong assertion of sovereignty and statement relative to the arbitral ruling,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Although Duterte opted for warmer relations with China upon his assumption of office in 2016, he repeatedly said he would raise the issue of the South China Sea when the time was right.
According to Panelo, it would be the President’s call to raise the issue with China during a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road forum later this month.
“We have been saying that our statements in the past were studied responses or calibrated responses,” Panelo said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs under Secretary Teddy Locsin has filed a diplomatic protest over the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-Asa Island.
Panelo had said the government would file a similar one if media reports on Chinese vessels near Kota Island were proven true.