The Philippines is committed to address concerns related to the South China Sea with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbors and other countries from outside the bloc as it asserted again its position over the disputed waters.
During the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and Foreign Affairs Ma. Theresa Lazaro raised the country’s priorities in this year’s event, which would include asserting its territorial ownership of the South China Sea by citing the arbitral award.
In the meeting, ASEAN nations would get the chance to discuss with each other and external partners common and pressing concerns, which in this year included the situation in the South China Sea, Myanmar crisis, Covid-19 pandemic, Ukraine-Russia conflict and developments on the Cross-Strait relations.
According to DFA, Lazaro reiterated before the Philippine neighboring nations that the Arbitral Award and the 1982 UNCLOS are the twin anchors of policy and actions of the Philippines on the West Philippine Sea.
Lazaro said that while the Philippines remains committed to efforts within ASEAN to resolve the South China Sea disputes, it also recognizes the growing list of countries supporting the Award.
Meanwhile, the department official also said the country hopes that the new East Asia Summit (EAS) Plan of Action in 2023 to 2027, which was adopted during the EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, will continue the momentum of identifying concrete ways to address pressing regional and global challenges.
Among challenges included public health emergencies, climate change, and emerging opportunities in digital technologies, among the new generation of issues.
Lazaro represented Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo at the 55th AMM after the latter tested positive for Covid-19 and was not able to push through with his scheduled meeting with his Asian counterparts.
Aside from the 55th AMM, there were also other foreign minister-level meetings attended by Lazaro on behalf of the Philippine government.
There, Lazaro also announced that the Philippines will host the EAS Workshop on Maritime Cooperation in Manila in September as she noted noted that “maritime cooperation will remain at the heart of Philippine initiatives in the East Asia Summit.”