President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the Hague ruling on the West Philippine Sea that favored the Philippines’ claim over China was invalid because it was one-sided.

“What will I do with a document that [does] not bind China because they were never a part of that arbitration? There was really no arbitration at all because it was only the Philippine side was heard,” Duterte said during his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Duterte said asserting the Hague ruling was more than he could handle.

“Ano ang gusto nila, makipag-giyera? ‘Do something.’ What do something? Do you want war against China? Well, I’ll tell you, even on the coast beach of Palawan, before you can take off, the missile of China would be there in about five or 10 minutes. It would be a massacre if I go and fight a war now. We are not yet a competent and able enemy of the other side,” he said.

Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio has said that there were multiple ways the government could assert the ruling without going to war.

These include entering into a convention with Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei and sending more Philippine vessels to patrol the waters.

In July last year, Duterte said that he was not willing to go to war with China to claim the Philippines’ sovereignty in the heavily disputed South China Sea.

Duterte, who has been widely criticized for his lack of insistence on the country’s arbitral victory over China since assuming the presidency in 2016, would then assert the ruling during his first United Nations (UN) General Assembly appearance.

“The award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon,” he declared during his first UN address.

“We firmly reject attempts to undermine it,” he added.

Duterte also asserted it in front of Southeast Asian leaders in an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit last year.

But in May this year, Duterte said he would throw away the country’s arbitral victory over China’s territorial claims on the West Philippine Sea as it was not set in stone—only on paper.

Duterte had told his Cabinet members to not be rude or disrespectful to China, to whom he said the Philippines was indebted for its vaccine donations.

China has said it “neither accepts nor recognizes” the Philippines’ legal victory on South China Sea claims. John Ezekiel J. Hirro