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Duterte renews call for peaceful resolution of sea dispute

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Duterte renews call for peaceful resolution of sea dispute
Duterte also cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the only acceptable basis for order in the South China Sea during the Retreat Session of the virtual 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit on Friday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has renewed his call for a peaceful resolution in the South China Sea dispute and a stop to acts of intimidation by powerful nations, saying “there can be no real peace if the strong trample on the weak.”

Duterte also cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the only acceptable basis for order in the South China Sea during the Retreat Session of the virtual 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit on Friday.

“There can be no real peace if the strong trample on the weak – just because it can. There can be no other acceptable basis for a just maritime order but the law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.

“All countries, big and small, must adhere to the rule of law, faithfully, consistently. Otherwise, there will be chaos,” he said.

Duterte’s remark came days after three Chinese coast guard vessels blocked and water cannoned two Philippine boats on their way to transport food supplies to military personnel manning the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal.

Beijing has demanded that the Philippines remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal, which it claimed is Chinese territory.

“Disputes must be settled peacefully in accordance with international law,” Duterte said.

“The South China Sea must remain a sea of peace, stability and prosperity, where the vital interests of stakeholders inside and outside the region are recognized and respected,” he said.

Despite this, the Philippine leader thanked China for reaffirming its commitment to discussions on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

“We acknowledge China’s reaffirmation of commitment to an early conclusion of negotiations on a substantive and effective Code of Conduct on the South China Sea,” Duterte said.

He also thanked ASEM partners for their statements of support for upholding the rule of law in the South China Sea.

“We also welcome their interest to enhance cooperation, including maritime security,” he said.

“This is as it should be – the entire community of nations – working for peace, committing to stability and upholding the majesty of the law,” the President said.

Malacañang earlier said the Philippine government will “fully exercise” its sovereign rights over Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, which is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said Duterte has been firm in his position that the country has sovereign rights over Ayungin as stipulated in the UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitral ruling which generally favored the Philippines.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday reminded Beijing that the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague ruled that Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and is within the Philippines’ EEZ and continental shelf.

The defense chief also stressed that there is no commitment on the part of the Philippine government to remove the Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal, contrary to Beijing’s claim.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed several diplomatic protests against Beijing for the presence of their vessels in the West Philippine Sea, but the protests were ignored.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE
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