MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president said Thursday he will not raise his country's victory in an arbitration ruling that invalidated China's territorial claims in the South China Sea during a Southeast Asian summit this weekend, a stance that critics say is subservient to Beijing.
Rodrigo Duterte said last year's ruling is an issue between China and the Philippines and does not concern other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He hosts an annual summit of ASEAN leaders in Manila on Saturday.
"I will skip the arbitral ruling. It is not an issue here in the ASEAN," Duterte told reporters.
A draft of an ASEAN chairman's communique to be issued by Duterte at the end of the summit also does not mention the arbitration decision, which invalidated China's historic claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.
The arbitration tribunal also ruled that Beijing violated the rights of Filipinos by blocking them from fishing in a disputed shoal.
Critics say Duterte should mention the ruling during the summit to increase pressure on Beijing to comply with it.
"The draft of the chairman's statement is deeply disappointing and, if not revisited, would manifest an absence of the desired leadership," said former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who spearheaded the filing of the arbitration case against China.
Duterte, who took office in June, has taken steps to repair relations with China which had been damaged by the territorial conflict.
Several other ASEAN members also claim parts of the South China Sea in a dispute that some fear could spark an armed conflict in economically bustling Asia.