“Price is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, decrease or give up,” Duterte said.
“We strongly reject attempts to undermine it.”
In his more than four years in power, this was Duterte’s first address to the UN body, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.
His statement on the South China Sea dispute is considered the strongest yet, given his previous statements downplaying the problem in exchange for Manila’s closer geopolitical and economic ties to Beijing.
Duterte is under increasing pressure at home to challenge China – after largely putting aside the deadlock for years – with tensions high after a Chinese fishing trawler struck and sank a Philippine boat in disputed waters in 2019 , and after China’s continued expansion of artificial islands into the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.
Over the past decade, China has built military installations on several disputed reefs and outcrops in the South China Sea to claim almost all of the sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Indonesia also have water rights.
“Illegal claim of the nine-dash line”
Beijing is basing its claims on the so-called nine-dash line, a vague delineation of maps dating back to the 1940s, which was declared illegal in a 2016 decision in The Hague. The court found that the Philippines had exclusive rights to resources within 370.4 km (200 nautical miles) of its coast.
In recent months, tensions have escalated as several world powers, including the United States and India, sent warships and other warships to patrol the contested seas in a bid to enforce the Hague decision and to affirm the freedom of navigation.
In his speech on Wednesday, Duterte said he welcomed “the growing number of states that have come out in favor of the prize and what it stands for – the triumph of reason over recklessness, the law over disorder, friendship over ambition ”.
“This – as it should be [be]”, He said,“ is the majesty of the law. ”
In a statement to Al Jazeera and other media outlets, retired Philippine Supreme Court Judge Antonio T Carpio, a leading critic of Duterte’s South China Sea policy, hailed the president’s statement as “Encouraging”.
I sincerely hope that this is the policy that the Duterte administration will implement at all levels – in protecting our exclusive economic zone in the Western Philippine Sea, in negotiations for the code of conduct and in garnering the support from the international community. community for the execution of the arbitration award. ”
Former Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said that with his statement, Duterte proved that he was “not insensitive at all, but that he listens to the will of his compatriots.”
“By invoking the arbitration award (decision of The Hague), the president acted more faithfully to our constitution, which gives him a mandate, as well as to our military, to guarantee the sovereignty of our country and protect our lands and seas.
Duterte also used the speech to address condemnation of the “war on drugs” he began shortly after taking office. He accused “interest groups” of trying to “militarize” human rights issues to criticize the campaign in which thousands of people were killed.
Human rights groups have urged the UN to conduct a full investigation into the war on drugs, accusing Duterte of committing crimes against humanity.
“They are trying to discredit the institutions and functional mechanisms of a democratic country and a government elected by the people which in its last two years still enjoys the same widespread approval and support,” a- he declared.