PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte once again invoked the country’s arbitral victory against China over the South China Sea, saying no country, no matter how powerful, should not ignore the ruling.
In his speech before the plenary session of the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit on Thursday, Duterte said the arbitral award was an authoritative interpretation of the application of the United Nations Convention in the Law of the Sea or Unclos.
“It is now part of international law. And its significance cannot be diminished nor ignored by any country, however big and powerful,” he stressed.
Just last September, Duterte invoked the arbitral ruling against China in his speech before the United Nations, saying the country would reject attempts to undermine the ruling, which voided China’s expansive maritime claim in the South China Sea.
Duterte said the disputes in relation to the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international laws.
“As I have said before, the South China Sea issue is Asean’s strategic challenge. How we deal with this matter lays bare our strengths and weaknesses as a Community. We must act with haste,” he said.
“The Philippine position is clear and firm. We must solve the disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS,” he added.
Duterte called on the immediate conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea which is a set of regional norms and rules to avoid conflicts in the disputed waters.
“The Philippines is one with Asean in transforming the South China Sea into a sea of peace and prosperity for all.”
“We are committed to the immediate conclusion of a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. And if I may add, it has been a long time and it is a long wait,” Duterte said.