The spokesman for Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has denied claims that Manila has abandoned the UN arbitral tribunal's decision that rejected the Chinese nine-dash line territorial claims in the South China Sea. He stated that the Philippines had "never shelved" the decision, which he called "irreversible", but noted that at the moment, the ruling can't be enforced.
Panelo indicated that if Manilla were to decide to enforce it on its own, the conflict with China would be disastrous for it, reiterating earlier Philippine statements.
"It only remains unenforceable because no foreign force seems persuaded to help us enforce it, and neither do we have the capability of enforcing it alone by force […] armed acts of enforcement could only trigger a bloody war that could cost the lives of our countrymen and destruction of properties in our land", he said.
Earlier, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario called on President Duterte to "unshelve" the UN tribunal's decision regarding sovereignty over the South China Sea islands.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte previously admitted that China controls most of the South China Sea, despite the 2016 ruling, and urged every state, including those outside the region, to avoid creating tensions with Beijing. At the same time, he later warned Beijing against aggressive actions against Pag-asa, also known as Thitu Island, Manila-controlled territory of the Spratly Islands in South China Sea.
Duterte has vowed to send his soldiers on "suicide missions" in case of aggressive moves. His words came after around 100 Chinese vessels were spotted around the island.
At the same time, Duterte's spokesman warned Beijing against "irritant" acts in the region that threaten the countries' improving bilateral relations. His comments came in light of a Chinese call on "non-littoral states" that are active in the disputed sea to cease "stirring up trouble" days after US naval ships participated in joint drills alongside Manila's forces.
The Philippines initiated an arbitration against China's territorial claim on the "nine-dash line", covering most of the South China Sea. Beijing has refused to participate in the arbitration. Its final ruling stated that China had no historic rights to claim "nine-dash line" territory. Beijing refused to acknowledge the tribunal's decision and to withdraw its forces from the region.