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Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Friday said he hopes that President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly will go beyond being empty rhetoric.

“I hope it is not a dud, a valiant but empty rhetoric,” he said.

Lagman expressed his reservations about Duterte’s assertion of Philippine sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) “after Duterte appears to desist from seeking sanctions from the United Nations to pressure China to respect the 2016 arbitral verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).”

“It is an inordinately defeatist attitude to anticipate from the United Nations General Assembly a negative response on the Philippines’ invocation of the finality and enforceability of the arbitral award after Duterte boldly proclaimed that it is now part of international law, beyond compromise, and cannot be undermined,” he said.

“Geo-political developments spearheaded by major world powers like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia support the arbitral decision in favor of the Philippines when they condemn China’s continuing aggression and incursion in the South China Sea, also known as the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

“Moreover, the popularity and influence of China has ebbed globally for being the source of the COVID-19 pandemic afflicting the rest of the world, which is another factor militating against China’s militaristic expansion in the West Philippine Sea and its unlawful rejection of the PCA’s final decision,” Lagman said.

The lawmaker said the Philippines must not forfeit the efficacy of these two significant factors which bolster the enforcement of the country’s arbitral victory.

“While presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is correct that ‘an arbitral ruling is not enforced since it is assumed that all countries would comply with their international obligation,’ the brutal fact is China refuses to respect the arbitral decision and continues its aggression, occupation and exploitation of the areas which are within the Philippines’ EEZ,” Lagman said.

“Verily, enforcement is imperative and multilateral support should be sought as indispensable. A verbal bubble is not enough,” he added.

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