Duterte urges nations to stop 'adventurism' in South China Sea

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has appealed to the nations to avoid "adventurism" in the hotly-contested South China Sea, as he reaffirmed the need to practice self-restraint in the busy waterway, Malacañang said on Sunday, November 17.

During the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and Related Summits in Singapore, the President called on his fellow Southeast Asian leaders and their dialogue partners to refrain from carrying out acts that may further escalate tensions in the disputed sea, the Palace said.

"In his national statement, the President reaffirmed the need to maintain and promote peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and stressed the need to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation," Malacañang said.

"The President asserted that aggressive moves by nations can worsen the situation with damage that could be exponential. The President urged stakeholders to desist from adventurism in the South China Sea," it added.

Duterte's call came amid the Philippines's historic legal win before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.

On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines's petition, invalidating China's extensive claims to most features of the resource-rich South China Sea.

However, Duterte has decided to set aside the ruling and resolve the sea disputes through diplomatic initiatives, including the crafting of an "effective and substantive" code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, which remains under negotiations between Asean member-states and China.

Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam are the four Asean member-states that are claiming parts of the South China Sea. China and Taiwan, on the other hand, are claiming most of the disputed sea.

If completed, the binding sea code will maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Duterte, as country coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations, maintained that the COC should be implemented in soonest time possible.

"He reaffirmed Asean and China’s shared commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," the Palace said.

"While noting the steady progress in the negotiations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, President Duterte called on all parties to work together for the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC," it added.

Malacañang also noted that throughout the Asean summits, "the Philippines clearly articulated its principled position on the need for a rules-based order in the region while underscoring the imperative for security and stability as necessary conditions for sustained growth and development."

It added that the Chief Executive emphasized the need to sustain Asean efforts toward building a "resilient and innovative" region, while underscoring the need for developing relations with dialogue partners based on "mutual respect for sovereignty."

Meantime, Malacañang said Duterte's attendance to the 26th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea also yielded positive developments.

It said the President raised with the Apec Business Advisory Council the need "to trade freely, fairly and openly, to spur economic activities and for transfer technology and invest in capacity building."

"Throughout his discussions, the President emphasized that security, stability and peace and order are preconditions for the growth envisioned by Apec," it said.

"The President likewise reaffirmed the importance of a rules-based multilateral trading system so that shared and sustainable progress and prosperity as envisioned by Apec could be achieved. He cautioned against protectionist sentiments and urged economies to treat each other rightly as partners rather than competitors," the Palace added.

Malacañang said Duterte likewise championed Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs), calling them the "backbone of many economies."

The President joined other economic leaders in emphasizing the need for greater cooperation to further capacitate MSMEs and educate entrepreneurs, in a bid to transform them into an "active players and contributors in the global supply and market chain," it added.

"While noting that the digital platform offered opportunities for growth in the global economy, the President drew attention to the wide digital divide that – if left unaddressed – could offload MSMEs in developing nations from the becoming active players," the Palace said.

Malacañang thus said Duterte continued to advance Philippine national interests and prioritized upholding and promoting the country's key positions throughout the Asean Summit and Related Summits, as well as the Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting. (SunStar Philippines)


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