Cites UNCLOS, 2016 PHL Arbitral Award to guide ASEAN, China in ensuring peace in South China Sea during ASEAN-China Special Summit
(Eagle News) – President Rodrigo Duterte condemned the latest action of China where its coast guard vessels blocked and attacked with water cannons two Philippine boats sending supplies and food to soldiers stationed in Ayungin Shoal.
“We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments,” he said during his intervention at the ASEAN-China Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations on Monday, Nov. 22.
“This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership. UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award provide legal clarity for all countries that subscribe to the majesty of the law,” he said.
This is the strongest words yet by the 76 year old Philippine leader to China.
Duterte said that while China has been helping ASEAN member nations through its vaccines against COVID-19 and other economic aid, its aggressive actions against its neighbors in the ASEAN region, particularly in the South China Sea, was not within the bounds of law and mutually agreed principles on maintaining peace and stability in the region.
-Duterte asks China to commit to early resolution of South China Sea Code of Conduct-
Duterte particularly cited the UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award that the Philippines won in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
“These two landmark documents are beacons pointing us to a just and fair solution to our disputes. We must fully utilize these legal tools to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, stability and prosperity. That is why China must remain committed to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea” he said.
The Philippine leader, on his last term in office, started his speech recognizing China as a friend and close neighbor, but pointed out that addressing the South China Sea dispute was a “strategic challenge that cannot be solved by force.”
-Strategic challenge, avoiding escalation of tensions-
We are friends and close neighbors. Our destinies are tied to each other – and geography has made it irrevocably so. Allow me then to speak with candor,” he said.
“The South China Sea is a strategic challenge that cannot be solved by force. We all want to benefit from the bounties of this vital maritime domain. We agree that peace and stability are a precondition for this to happen. And we all pledge adherence to the rule of law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Let us then walk our talk and move forward. Acta non verba which means deeds, not words,” he said.
“Let us exercise utmost [self-]restraint and avoid the escalation of tensions. And most importantly, let us earnestly work towards the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law,” Duterte said.
The Philippine president, known for his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, observed that “there is simply no other way out of this colossal problem but the rule of law.”
-China as ASEAN strategic partner-
At the start of his intervention in the ASEAN-China Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations chaired by Chinese president Xi, Duterte noted how the 30-year friendship between the ASEAN and China were achieved by “incremental steps marked with significant milestones.”
He said that China certainly “deserves its status as ASEAN’s Comprehensive Strategic Partner.”
“When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, China was the first Dialogue Partner that ASEAN engaged. When vaccines were scarce, China was among the first to provide. I am pleased that cooperative projects on preventing and controlling pandemics, sharing of best practices and technical assistance are underway,” he noted.
“Together we are making headways in pandemic control, allowing us to re-open our economies and go full speed with recovery efforts. Enhanced multilateralism and connectivity will be the drivers of inclusive and comprehensive recovery. We thus welcome China’s ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. We also look forward to further strengthening the already robust ASEAN-China economic relations,” he explained.
President Duterte also pointed out how climate change has “rightly risen to the top of our agenda.”
He noted how developing coastal states like the Philippines, while contributing the least to global warming, bear the brunt of adverse effects of climate change.
“The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties or COP26 has just been wrapped up. We hope that urgent climate action anchored on the principles of justice and fairness will follow suit,” he said,
Duterte also explained how the member nations of the ASEAN depend on the oceans and seas for livelihood. It was thus important for the oceans and seas to be protected, and this includes the preservation of biodiversity and the marine environment.
He also called for support for the work of the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity which is hosted by the Philippines.
-Mainitaing peace, vital in region, says China’s President Xi-
But he said that it was also important for everyone, including the ASEAN and China, to “walk the talk” in maintaining peace and stability in the vital seas connecting the region.
“Your Majesty, Excellencies, pearls come to mind when we celebrate 30-year anniversaries. These gems of the sea symbolize wisdom and serenity. Amidst the shifts and challenges in our region, may we always have the wisdom and serenity to do the right thing for the common good,” he added.
China’s President Xi Jinping during the the Summit said China is committed to maintaining peace in the region.
“Without peace, nothing would be possible. Maintaining peace is our greatest common
interest and the most cherished aspiration of people of all countries,” he said during the ASEAN-China Special Summit.
The Philippines’ Western Command in Palawan reported that on Nov. 16, “three Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and water cannoned two Philippine supply boats en route to transport food supplies to Philippine military personnel in Ayungin Shoal.”
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., said that China should “back off” noting that the acts of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels were illegal.
“I have conveyed in the strongest terms to H.E. Huang Xilian, Ambassador of China and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing our outrage, condemnation and protest of the incident,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary said in a statement on Nov. 18.
“I reminded China that a public vessel is covered by the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.
(Eagle News Service)