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Duterte to ‘revisit’ UN West Philippine Sea ruling ‘at the right time’

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Philippine's President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a January 2017 briefing. — AFP

President Rodrigo R. Duterte vowed that he will revisit “at the right time” a United Nations ruling that upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

The remark was made during his bilateral meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Summit in Singapore, his spokesperson said.

“The West Philippine Sea issue was discussed. The President just wanted to be clear that we are not abandoning the arbitral ruling,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a press briefing in Singapore on Friday. “We are not ignoring, we are not setting aside the arbitral tribunal decision which is in our favor. But not now. It will happen at the right time.”

For his part, Mr. Phuc, according to Mr. Roque, said he “admires” Mr. Duterte’s handling of China when it comes to the West Philippine issue.

Mr. Roque added: “I quote [what he said]: ‘We will learn from his handling of China. President Duterte handled China really well.’”

According to the Palace official, it was the Vietnamese Prime Minister who brought up the issue during the meeting.

“It was because he was appealing for support for a joint filing of Malaysia and Vietnam’s claim on an extended continental shelf.”

Whether Mr. Duterte is willing to help Vietnam on the matter, Mr. Roque said: “He will study. He will explore [the possibility].” — Arjay L. Balinbin