David Stilwell, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, was in Manila for the 8th Philippines-United States bilateral strategic discussion from July 15 to 16.
US Department of State/Released
US: Philippines well-positioned to ensure South China Sea code consistent with international law
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 16, 2019 - 4:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is in a position to ensure that the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) will be consistent with international law, a US State Department official said.

The member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with China, are currently working on the draft code.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell said the Philippines is "well-positioned" to do so.

Manila should also make sure that the code will protect the "freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea for all countries, as well as rights of claimant states to pursue security development arrangements with partners of their choosing."

Stilwell said this in a press statement after concluding the bilateral strategic dialogue in Manila.

In a joint statement released after the dialogue, the Philippines and the US reaffirmed their commitment to upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

The two countries also stressed the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"Both sides also emphasized the importance of concluding an effective and substantive Code of Conduct that would not prejudice the rights under international law of both claimant states and non-claimant states in the SCS," the statement read.

China has been claiming indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, which an UNCLOS-backed arbitral tribunal had invalidated in its July 2016 landmark ruling.

Despite the Philippines' arbitral victory three years ago, the Duterte administration has shelved the ruling in seeking stronger ties with China.

Duterte has been declaring that he does not want to go to war with China over the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea arbitral ruling.

The Philippines is now acting as country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue, where it leads the negotiations on drafting a COC on the South China Sea.

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