Malacañang criticized the statement of former Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario that Duterte administration shelved the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling, that invalidated China’s historic claims over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo called Del Rosario’s remarks as “mindless” as he reiterated that “there was no shelving of the arbitral ruling and that their position has been consistent in that there is no system of enforcing the arbitral ruling.”

“What is mindless is when one makes reckless statements under the guise of pretended patriotism on unverified reports of intrusion or harassment, or performs actions that could provoke an armed retaliation,” Panelo said.

Panelo added that the International Tribunal has no armed component to enforce its decision in the event that the losing state refuses to recognise the judgement and that any armed enforcement of the arbitral could provoke bloody hostilities between the two countries.

The Palace spokesman also maintained that bilateral negotiations to resolve the conflicting claims is the better and circumspect option than unnecessarily risking the lives of our soldiers.

“The President’s previous statements that he would not in the meantime raise the issue of the arbitral ruling as he discusses trade relations is not shelving the judgement. By repeatedly making such statements, he in fact puts China on notice that such issue remains and a sword of Damocles hanging over its head,” according to Panelo.

Panelo added that the President believes that the best way to resolve this maritime dispute is through peaceful and diplomatic negotiations with China, a mode that avoids a violent confrontation to resolve international disputes.