Malacanang should retract President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that the Philippines' win against China before a UN-backed arbitration court is a mere "piece of paper," the UP College of Law said, as it warned of further erosion in the country's position in disputed waters.
A retraction is in the "best interest of the country and its people," according to the statement signed by close to a hundred law experts, most of who are former colleagues of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"The Arbitral Award is a victory and the pride of the Filipino people; it does not belong to the waste can," the statement said.
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As chief architect of Philippine foreign policy, Duterte's words have power, according to the statement. Likening the Arbitral Award to a piece of paper and saying that China is “in possession” of the West Philippine Sea, or that Chinese fishermen are free to fish in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), contradicts the country’s legal position, UP Law said.
Such statements "effectively waive rights already won," UP Law said.
"At a time when China continues to chip away at our nation’s territorial integrity with repeated incursions into our maritime zones, the President’s statements achieve nothing but encourage further disregard of the UNCLOS and the rule of law," it said.
Duterte's statements are "disheartening" for the people who seek clarity, reassurance, and leadership in the most challenging of times, such as Filipino fishermen, who want the President's protection when fishing the waters they are entitled to, and uniformed personnel, who bear the responsibility of defending the country's sovereign rights over the seas.