âEven powerful countries must respect South China Sea rulingâ
After pushing the same issue during his recent participation at the United Nations General Assembly, Duterte asserted anew his stand in his speech at the virtual plenary opening of the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders’ Summit hosted by Vietnam from Nov. 12 to 15.
US Navy/File

‘Even powerful countries must respect South China Sea ruling’

Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The significance of the 2018 arbitral ruling on the South China Sea cannot be ignored by any country, President Duterte said yesterday.

After pushing the same issue during his recent participation at the United Nations General Assembly, Duterte asserted anew his stand in his speech at the virtual plenary opening of the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Summit hosted by Vietnam from Nov. 12 to 15.

He said the issue of the South China Sea “cannot be outright ignored by the ASEAN,” adding that the matter causes challenge to the regional bloc since it involves security and stability in the region.

“As I have said before, the South China Sea issue is ASEAN’s strategic challenge. How we deal with this matter lays bare our strengths and weaknesses as a community. We must act with haste,” he said.

He reiterated the Philippines’ position that disputes on the South China Sea should be done peacefully and based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.

“The Philippine position is clear and firm. We must solve the disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS,” he said.

“The 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea is an authoritative interpretation of the application of UNCLOS. It is now part of international law. And its significance cannot be diminished nor ignored by any country, however big and powerful,” Duterte said.

He did not direct his statement to China, although Beijing has not recognized the arbitral ruling since it was handed down in 2016.

The President also echoed the ASEAN’s goal to establish peace and prosperity on the disputed islands.

“The Philippines is one with ASEAN in transforming the South China Sea into a sea of peace and prosperity for all. We are committed to the immediate conclusion of a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. And if I may add, it has been a long time and it is a long wait,” he said.

He reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitment to the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in South China Sea in its entirety.

“The ASEAN also committed to work towards conclusion and adoption and effective substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea consistent with international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Duterte said.

He said the regional bloc is “committed to build a politically cohesive ASEAN, at the center of the region’s peace and security agenda.”

He noted how superpowers have been exerting pressure for claimant countries to take sides in relation to the South China Sea issue. But peace and stability should be the primordial concern, he said.

“We must, therefore, remain united. We must show that we are masters of our region’s destiny and that we can work together to achieve shared aspirations and solve common problems,” Duterte said.

SOUTH CHINA SEA
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