By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said many of the Southeast Asian leaders pushed for “adherence to the rule of law” in the South China Sea amid the rising tension in the disputed waters.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in his Friday presser that at least half of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) leaders raised the South China Sea issue.
President Duterte, during his intervention in the 36th ASEAN Summit, asked his fellow ASEAN leaders to refrain from escalating the tension in the disputed waters and abide by their responsibilities under international law, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He also asked them to adhere to other international instruments such as the 2002 declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea.
As country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations, Duterte revealed that there were constraints in dealing with the deliverables. He, however, said ASEAN must not lose sight of the strategic interest in the South China Sea.
“We must find innovative ways and exercise flexibility to achieve our common goals,” the President said.
“We remain committed to working closely with the member-states and China towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive code of conduct in the South China Sea,” he added.
Earlier, Malacañang disagreed with the remarks of former Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that China was taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to advance its interests in the South China Sea.
“We do not agree with that conclusion. Although the current national policy is we will defend territory and sovereign rights,” Roque said in April.
He, however, said Carpio’s suggestion to hold joint patrols with Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia in the disputed waters was being considered.
Early this week, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi advised claimants of the South China Sea to continue a Code of Conduct negotiation that was delayed by the pandemic.
“Negotiation among claimant countries is key. Indonesia supports continuing the code of conduct negotiation that was halted due to the pandemic,” Retno said during a virtual Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Wednesday.
She also said that it was important for ASEAN to keep sending out messages to great powers involved in the dispute to maintain regional peace and stability in the South China Sea.