Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte went on the offensive over the South China Sea in his first-ever address to the United Nations General Assembly, stressing his country’s legal victory at The Hague in its long-simmering maritime dispute with China.
In a video address recorded in Manila, Duterte said that the Philippines has rights over the portion of the South China Sea that The Hague ruling declared to be within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
In his more than four years in office, it was the first time that Duterte had addressed the UN body, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.
His statement on the South China Sea dispute is seen as the strongest so far, given his previous pronouncements downplaying the issue in exchange for Manila’s closer geopolitical and economic ties with Beijing.
Duterte is under growing pressure at home to challenge China after largely setting aside the standoff for years with tensions high after a Chinese fishing trawler hit and sank a Filipino boat in the contested waters in 2019, and after China’s continued expansion of artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.