Duterte on SCS: Avoid escalating tension

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Duterte on SCS: Avoid escalating tension
President Duterte joins other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations during the 36th Asean Summit video conference, at Malacañang yesterday
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines  — Expressing “serious concern” over recent incidents in the South China Sea, President Duterte urged yesterday fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), particularly parties to the South China Sea dispute, to refrain from escalating tension and abide with their responsibilities under international law.

Participating in the 36th ASEAN Summit held via video conference, Duterte specifically mentioned the need to abide by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In the midst of ongoing rivalry between the US and China, Duterte called for ASEAN to remain united and defend “an open and rules-based international order that gives all countries – large or small – not just one voice, but an equal standing.”

Malacañang said the ASEAN leaders instructed ministers to craft a comprehensive recovery plan – one that will, hopefully, be innovative and ambitious, leading to a greener and more sustainable future.

The leaders have adopted 12 outcome documents, including the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN,” ASEAN Declaration on Human Resource Development for the Changing World of Work, Work Plan of the ASEAN Plan of Action to Prevent and Counter the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism 2019-2025, and the Terms of Reference of the ASEAN Technical and Vocational Training Council, among others.

They also welcomed the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ issuance of the Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic as well as the establishment of the ASEAN Response Fund.

These are key deliverables agreed upon at the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19 which was held last April 14.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, presidential spokesman Harry Roque and Sen. Bong Go joined the President at the summit.

The 36th ASEAN Summit is the first regular summit held via videoconference, chaired by Vietnam.

“Other than COVID-19, the issue of South China Sea was also discussed. They have a common stand on the need to focus on crafting the Code of Conduct at South China Sea to prevent conflict, and the need for everyone to follow the rule of law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Roque said.

Duterte and other leaders also expressed serious concern on the matter of terrorism, while at least two leaders discussed the “continuing issue” on the state of Rohingya over alleged human rights abuses.

Roque added the leaders also see the immediate need for the ASEAN countries to work for economic integration to enable the fast recovery of the region.

There was also a consensus among leaders on the need to contain COVID-19, Roque added.

They also noted the shift to digitalization as means of ensuring continuity in business and the need to employ digital means for the trade sector.

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