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Rody stresses need for peace, stability in South China Sea



President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call on his counterparts in Southeast Asia to remain united in pursuing peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The President stressed at the 38th and 39th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that the bloc should be committed to resolving maritime disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international laws.

“We have come a long way in keeping the peace and promoting prosperity in our region. We must not allow those with diverging interests to make our efforts fail,” said Duterte, who was in Malacañang during the virtual meeting on Tuesday.

He urged his fellow leaders to respect jurisprudence on maritime conflicts, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 arbitral award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which junked China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.

In his intervention at the 24th ASEAN-China summit, Duterte also asked sea claimants to pursue the full implementation of the non-binding Declaration on the 2002 Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, pending the crafting of a final and binding Code of Conduct in the resource-rich waters.

The documents outline the peaceful resolution of disputes in the highly-contested commercial gateway as the international community aims to ensure that no violent conflicts will arise between the six sea claimants.

“Talks should not remain empty rhetoric. They should be translated into action to fortify the trust and confidence we have cultivated through the years. Acta non verba. Deeds, not words,” Duterte said.

The Chief Executive also reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to the conclusion of an “effective and substantive” sea code, noting the Philippines’ contribution to the progress in the second reading of the single draft COC negotiating text.

In addition, he reiterated the country’s call for “holistic” efforts to protect and preserve biodiversity and the marine environment, as he stressed that 2017 to 2027 is the Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in South China Sea.

Meanwhile, he said the dynamic ASEAN-China cooperation would help both the region combat the Covid -19 pandemic, address climate change, and manage geopolitical issues.

He also thanked China for supporting the region’s pandemic response, particularly by donating life-saving vaccines to its neighboring countries.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam are the four ASEAN member-states which have competing claims in the South China Sea, which is known for crude oil and natural gas. China and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the area.