President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his call for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to remain united in pursuing peace, stability, and prosperity in the South China Sea, Malacañang said Wednesday.
In a press statement, the Palace said that Duterte made the remarks during the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits on Tuesday.
Duterte said the regional bloc should pursue initiatives to resolve the dispute in the contested waters in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award that favored the Philippines.
“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,” he said.
Duterte, in his intervention at the 24th ASEAN-China Summit, urged countries to translate their commitments into action regarding the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in the midst of the evolving geopolitical situation in Asia.
“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,” he said.
As claimants craft a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, Duterte lauded the Philippines’ contribution to the substantive progress in the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, as the country reaffirms its commitment to the conclusion of an effective and substantive COC.
Noting 2017-2027 as the Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in the South China Sea, the president reiterated the Philippines’ call for holistic efforts to protect and preserve biodiversity and the marine environment.
Also during his intervention, the Filipino leader pointed out that a dynamic ASEAN-China cooperation puts both sides in a formidable position to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, address climate change and manage geopolitical issues.
He expressed his gratitude to China for supporting ASEAN’s pandemic response, particularly by “making life-saving vaccines global public goods,” the Palace said.
Also during the summit, the president said that ASEAN’s road to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be long and difficult as the region reels from the impact of the contagion.
He emphasized the need for a phased and comprehensive implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and called for the immediate establishment of the ASEAN Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases.
Aside from COVID-19 and the territorial dispute, the Palace said that Duterte also called on his fellow ASEAN leaders to stand with Myanmar in solving its crisis peacefully for the welfare of its people.
He likewise urged Myanmar’s political players to “engage in constructive dialogue,” and allow the ASEAN Special Envoy to visit the country.
At the 22nd ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit, Duterte welcomed the Joint Statement on Advancing ASEAN-ROK Cooperation and underscored the need for deeper regional integration to accelerate post-pandemic recovery.
At the same time, he welcomed the signing of the Philippines-ROK Free Trade Agreement Tuesday, noting it is needed “for our economies to recover and bounce back,” the Palace said.
He also pushed for the full implementation of the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the early entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, it added.
Malacañang also said that the President welcomed the United Kingdom as ASEAN’s new Dialogue Partner and vowed to enhance relations with the European Union (EU) as the new Country Coordinator for ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations.
Duterte attended Tuesday’s summit via video conference. This is Duterte’s second straight year of virtually attending the meeting amid the coronavirus pandemic.