Duterte asserts arbitral ruling on South China Sea not during his term

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President Rodrigo Duterte. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 21) — President Rodrigo Duterte again denied it was during his term when an international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines over claims in the South China Sea.

"It did not come during my term, 'yung award. Excuse me. Hindi sa panahon ko 'yan, nandiyan na 'yan pagdating ko or two days after," Duterte said in a speech at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu on Saturday.

[Translation: It did not come during my term, the award. Excuse me. It wasn't during my time. It has been there when I arrived or two days after.]

The ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague was made on July 12, 2016, about two weeks into Duterte's term as President after his inauguration on June 30 of the same year.

However, Duterte said even if were the President then, he would not be able to do much to enforce it.

"If I were President at the time, anong magawa ko [what can I do]? I can send my Marines there. I can send every police there. But what will happen? They will all be massacred," he said.

Duterte said Chinese forces have been using the Spratly Islands as their "mainland."

"Sabi ko, because nang nandiyan na, ipinapakita nila are the current ano [I said, right now, what they are showing are], the contemporary bombers pati fighters. But beyond the shores there at the back, nandoon 'yung mga hypersonics nila ngayon [their hypersonics are there now] and it can reach Manila in seven minutes," he said.

This was not the first time Duterte incorrectly said the ruling was issued during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III.

READ: Duterte says U.S., ex-Pres. Aquino allowed military build-up in S. China Sea

On Sunday, Senator Risa Hontiveros and Magdalo Party-list Rep. Antonio Trillanes called on Duterte to do more to protect the country, after Friday reports of Chinese bomber planes were seen landing on an island in the contested waters.

READ MORE: Senator seeks PH action on China's threat of 'nuclear war'

China's exercise of the H-6K bomber planes on an island — believed to be Woody Island in the Paracel group — was part Chinese air force's war preparation skills and its ability to respond to various security threats, according to a statement from military expert Wang Mingliang on Friday.

However, the United States has criticized this show of force from China.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it is closely monitoring developments in the South China Sea.

"We are taking the appropriate diplomatic action necessary to protect our claims and will continue to do so in the future," the DFA said on Monday.

However, it clarified it is not their policy to disclose certain actions taken regarding the dispute.

"While appropriate language, whether expressions of condemnation or concern, over certain developments are clearly conveyed through diplomatic channels, it is not our policy to publicize every action taken by the Philippine Government whenever there are reported developments taking place in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea," it said.

The department said the government is asserting the country's sovereign rights over parts of the South China Sea — through diplomatic measures like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and through the laws under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

It added the country is taking a different approach to resolving the maritime row to "avoid any drawbacks and challenges."