Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday said disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully through the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and in the 2016 Arbitral Award rendered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Locsin made this point during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – China Post Ministerial Meeting where senior ministers from the regional block interacted with Chinese Foreign Minister and State Counselor Wang Yi on various issues ranging from security, economic, political, and on COVID-19 response in the region.
“A peaceful South China Sea is essential to its protection and sustainable management. Disputes in it should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and in the recent light of the 2016 Arbitral Award which singles out no one, was carefully crafted as to be unusable as a weapon for disputation; and most helpful in clarifying maritime issues,” Locsin said in his remarks.
The DFA chief noted that even Scandinavian countries are now invoking the Award which was the result of a petition filed by the Philippines before the UN-backed arbitration court that sought to invalidate China’s excessive nine-dash-line claim in the South China Sea.
China, however, refused to recognize the Arbitral Award, calling it a mere “piece of paper.”
In the same gathering of ASEAN senior ministers, Locsin conveyed his congratulatory message to his Chinese counterpart on the celebration of the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China, calling it “the most important event in the modern history of Asia and its future.”
The ASEAN meeting also coincided with the commemoration of the 30th year anniversary of ASEAN- China ties, which according to Locsin, gives both sides the time to pause “not just to look back but look ahead, as through a glass clearly.”
Locsin further said that the quality and increasing extent of ASEAN-China relations “merit elevation to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, noting that China will soon be the world’s biggest economy and its imperative role for a global post-pandemic recovery.
He also defended China against those criticizing the efficacy of its vaccines.
“When critics of China said its vaccines are not as good, I asked: As compared to what? The Chinese vaccines were the first on the scene. Had many countries not made a grab for it, the death toll would be far greater,” the secretary said.