Duterte serves as voice of caution on AUKUS security pact in ASEAN Summit

Published October 27, 2021, 4:44 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

President Duterte has told his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that arrangements such as the Australia, United Kingdom, and United States (AUKUS) trilateral security partnership “must complement and not complicate” working methods for cooperation.

President Duterte speaks on the first day of the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits on Oct. 26, 2021 (Screenshot from Facebook live)

The Philippine leader had this to say Tuesday night, Oct. 26 during the virtual 9th ASEAN-United States (US) Summit.

“We take full account of the statements that AUKUS will promote peace and stability in our region and maintain support for ASEAN centrality. But one thing should be clear for all stakeholders: ASEAN central role in the evolving regional security architecture must be strengthened and that this or other arrangements must complement and not complicate our working methods for cooperation,” Duterte said in his intervention.

According to a statement from Malacañang Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 27, Duterte said the Philippines reaffirms the strategic importance of a peaceful and stable South China Sea and stressed that “all stakeholders must exercise self-restraint to avoid untoward incidents that may further complicate the situation”.

Attending the ASEAN-US Summit for the first time was US President Joe Biden.

The AUKUS security pact involves Australia’s purchase of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian Navy.

These subs will then be used by the three nations in patrolling the South China Sea–a location that in recent years have been feared to cause a flashpoint mainly due to regional power China’s aggressive maritime posturing.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told local reporters last month that Duterte had concerns over a “regional nuclear arms race” upon hearing of the security agreement.

(Screenshot from Facebook live)

Duterte, the Palace statement added, said that countries must “work together towards the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”.

Citing the rapidly changing “regional landscape and seascape,” President Duterte asserted the importance and need for ASEAN Centrality even as he acknowledged the United States’ “commitment to work with ASEAN, especially on maritime security and domain awareness issues.”

Duterte is attending the simultaneous 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits virtually via video conference. The events, which are being hosted by Brunei, will run from Oct. 26 to 28.