MANILA – The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is doing all it can to handle the situation with China in the West Philippine Sea, three years after the country won its arbitral victory at the Hague, Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said Friday.
"We won and we won big and it's there forever," Jardeleza said on ANC's Headstart.
Jardeleza said the president and the executive department are making a judgement call on how best to enforce the ruling.
"It has enforced it in a way that this administration–and you grant them good faith–feel it should be enforced. People disagree. People of goodwill can disagree," he said.
He said the challenge after The Hague victory is how to enforce the ruling given the lack of an enforcing body.
"In the international scene, there is no such thing as international policeman so the challenge is how do you enforce an award like the award that we got," he said.
It was also because of this challenge that maritime lawyer Jay Batongbacal described the ruling as "paper victory."
"The victory was a big victory. It was a victory. Academics all over the world call it an astounding complete victory. It is the view of Jay that it is a paper victory because it goes back to the problem who is going to enforce it," he said.
Friday marks the third year since the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague upheld Manila’s sovereign rights to its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), rejecting Beijing’s historic claim to resources in the South China Sea using its nine-dash line doctrine.
Jardeleza was part of the team that argued in the Hague proceedings.
Duterte has been criticized for what appeared to be policy pronouncements essentially recognizing China’s maritime claim despite the PCA ruling.
"Under the international law, we are right despite what they continue to claim. In that sense, they are still disputing. But this time, while we say now you are not correct we have something. Meron tayong pinanghahawakan. That counts for so much because so many people worked so hard to get that," he said.
Jardeleza hopes that the same civic spirit and patriotism that sustained those who fought for the victory would be observed by the Duterte administration as they make their tough calls.
"In the end, the biggest lesson if we are united even if we disagree, we can achieve big things. And this ruling will survive, I predict, the political winds. There will be changes in administration. I don't know if within our lifetime it will be enforced, but it's going to be a continuing project of the Filipino people," he said.