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MANILA – Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday commended President Rodrigo Duterte for raising before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) the country’s arbitral victory over disputed islets and other sea features in the South China Sea.

“The President has repeatedly declared that he would invoke the arbitral ruling favoring our claims over these areas and even raise it with Chinese leaders at the proper time. He felt that maybe, now is the most opportune time to reassert our position on this matter,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Rodriguez said Duterte has made it clear to Beijing that the ruling cannot be compromised despite the cordial relations and friendship existing between the two nations.

“That he did it before a large international forum for every nation, including China, to hear made it all the more laudable,” Rodriguez said. “China should not misread such friendship as weakness on our part.”

In his debut speech at the UNGA, Duterte asserted the UN-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling which invalidated China’s nine-dash line map that covers nearly the entire South China Sea.

Duterte said the arbitral ruling “is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.”

“We firmly reject attempts to undermine it,” Duterte said.

Rodriguez urged Duterte to support his invocation of the arbitral ruling “with concrete and consistent actions.”

“We can for instance continue to rally regional and international support for the ruling. We can also increase patrols in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), where some Chinese-occupied features the arbitral court had ruled as belonging to the Philippines under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea are located,” he said.

Rodriguez noted that Beijing should now give up those features, including Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal off Zambales and Pangasinan in the north, and Mischief Reef down south in the Palawan area. (PNA)

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