President Benigno Aquino III and his sister Maria Elena Aquino-Cruz, right, greet U.S. President Barack Obama to the welcome dinner at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. AP/Bullit Marquez
US leader pitches for EDCA
MANILA, Philippines – “Bold steps” are needed to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, including making China stop its reclamation and building of military structures in disputed waters, US President Barack Obama said yesterday.
“We discussed the impact of China’s reclamation and construction activities on regional stability. We agreed on the need for bold steps to lower tensions including pledging to halt further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea,” Obama said in a statement after a bilateral meeting with Aquino on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summot in Manila.
Obama cited his visit last Tuesday to the Philippine Navy flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar where he announced increased maritime assistance to the Philippines.
For his part, Aquino said he and Obama discussed the maritime disputes and security in the region and agreed that international law should guide behavior and actions of all countries with stakes in the region.
“I take this opportunity to reiterate the Philippines’ view that the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea must be continuously upheld, consistent with international law,” Aquino said.
The Philippines resorted to arbitration to clarify its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea as China became more aggressive in reclaiming disputed islands apparently to change their features and expand its exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Under the UNCLOS, arbitration is one of the avenues that claimant-countries can resort to for dispute settlement.
Obama expressed support for Manila’s resorting to arbitration and reaffirmed his country’s unwavering commitment to the security and defense of the Philippines.
“As I have said earlier, we are not claimants ourselves, but we fully support a process in which through international law and international norms these issues are resolved,” Obama said in a press briefing after his meeting with Aquino.