President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday asserted the Philippines’ legal victory against China over the South China Sea in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

Duterte has been widely criticized for his lack of insistence on the country’s arbitral victory over China since assuming the presidency in 2016.

“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 said the country remained mindful of its obligations and commitments under the UN Charter and as amplified by the 1982 Manila on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes.

He also thanked other countries for backing the Philippines’ victory.

“We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for — the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This – as it should – is the majesty of the law,” Duterte said.

In August, the US Department of State denounced China’s “campaign of bullying” to control resources in the disputed waters.

The United Kingdom, France and Germany have also decried China’s maritime claims which were not in compliance with the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea and international law. John Ezekiel J. Hirro