A tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) recently released its long-awaited judgment in the Philippines vs. China case. The case is the culmination of years of careful judicial and diplomatic positioning by the Philippines, rejecting the legality of China’s dubious claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea and its island-building operations in the disputed waterway. Yet even though the court’s ruling broadly favors the Philippines, the country’s new and bombastic president, Rodrigo Duterte, seems worryingly open to derailing his predecessors’ hard-won efforts. Unless Duterte walks back his campaign rhetoric dismissing arbitration and offering up concessions to China, he could squander a major opportunity to secure greater stability for the Philippines and the region.
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