Duterte, Suga discuss disputed waters in phone call

Published May 19, 2021, 9:14 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

“We cannot afford conflicts between neighbors.”

President Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga

This was what President Duterte told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as they discussed maritime security and safety in the Asia-Pacific region during their phone conversation on Wednesday.

Malacañang made the statement after Duterte had a 20-minute phone conversation with Suga following the cancelation of his Philippine visit that would have taken place this month.

In a statement, the Palace said President Duterte stressed the need for nations to cooperate on promoting maritime domain awareness, maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and

overflight, and maritime connectivity and commerce.

Duterte likewise underlined the need to recognize and work for the peaceful settlement of disputes, stating that the Asia-Pacific region cannot afford conflicts between neighbors.

“President Duterte underscored that alliances and partnerships must redound to greater stability in the South China Sea and uphold the broader collective interest of the Asia-Pacific region,” the Palace statement read.

According to Malacañang, Prime Minister Suga expressed appreciation for President Duterte’s stand during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly on the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

While recognizing the importance of the Arbitral Ruling, Suga also expressed concern over developments in the East and South China Seas.

“Both leaders agreed to work closely to ensure security and stability in the region under the rule of law,” Malacañang said.

Duterte’s discussion with Suga about the disputed waters came following the ongoing tension in the West Philippine Sea due to recent Chinese vessel incursions in the area.

Meanwhile, President Duterte stressed the importance of continuing cooperation in the Sulu and Celebes Seas to secure the area against piracy, terrorism, and other transnational crimes.

Both leaders stated their intent to strengthen cooperation in these waters, according to Malacañang.

President Duterte likewise told Prime Minister Sugar that Japan’s increased engagement in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) was key to revitalizing socio-economic growth and promoting security in the Sulu and Celebes Seas.