Manila, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte called on stakeholders in the West Philippine Sea “to exercise the utmost restraint, to avoid escalation of tensions and to work for the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law”, describing the problems of disputed waters of “a strategic challenge that cannot be resolved by force.
A statement released by Malacañang said the president joined the discussion at the special ASEAN-China summit with his regional counterparts to commemorate the 30e Anniversary of Dialogue Relations via videoconference on Monday 22 November.
“We abhor the recent event on the Ayungin bench and view with deep concern other similar developments. It doesn’t speak well of the relationship between our nations and our partnership, ”said Duterte.
“UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitration award provide legal clarity… indicating a fair and equitable solution to our disputes. We must make full use of these legal tools to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, stability and prosperity, ”he added.
The president also called on China to remain committed to concluding an effective and substantial code of conduct in the South China Sea.
“There is simply no other way out of this colossal problem than the rule of law,” he said.
During the summit, Duterte underscored the depth and breadth of the 30-year partnership between ASEAN and China which, he stressed, deserves its status as the region’s “comprehensive strategic partner”.
The president also highlighted China’s timely assistance to ASEAN’s response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first country to provide life-saving vaccines and medical supplies to ASEAN member countries.
Duterte also expressed his perspective on the region’s recovery efforts from the pandemic.
“Enhanced multilateralism and connectivity will be the engines of an inclusive and comprehensive recovery,” the president said, welcoming China’s ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
Malacañang said the president also referred to the recently concluded 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on climate change, reiterating the Philippines’ call for urgent climate action grounded in the principles of justice and equity.
He also advocated for the protection and preservation of biodiversity and the marine environment through sustained cooperation by supporting the work of the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity hosted by the Philippines, among others.