Duterte renews call to keep peace in South China Sea

Map showing the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including the Spratlys Islands and Scarborough Shoal. (Image from AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has renewed his call to retain unity in pursuing peace and stability in the disputed South China Sea.

Speaking during the 38th and 39th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit on Tuesday, Duterte said prosperity should be promoted in the area pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, a critical commercial gateway for the world’s shipping industry.

“We have come a long way in keeping the peace and promoting prosperity in our region. We must not allow those with diverging interests to make our efforts fail,” said Duterte, who was in the Malacañan Palace and joined the regional bloc’s meetings online.

READ: Duterte joins 38th, 39th Asean Summit

The president called anew for efforts to protect and preserve biodiversity and the marine environment, noting that 2017-2027 is the Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in the South China Sea.

As regards the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), Duterte likewise urged nations to turn commitments into action.

READ: No nation can diminish importance of 2016 ruling on West PH Sea –Duterte

According to Asean’s website, the DOC “reflects the consensus reached by all Parties on seeking peaceful solutions to disputes and conducting maritime cooperation in order to maintain regional stability in the South China Sea.”

“Talks should not remain empty rhetoric. They should be translated into action to fortify the trust and confidence we have cultivated through the years. Acta non verba. Deeds, not words,” Duterte said.

In May, Duterte downplayed The Hague ruling on the South China Sea that favored the Philippines against China, dismissing it as a mere piece of paper that he will “throw away in the wastebasket.”

His predecessor, the late former President Benigno S. Aquino III, initiated the complaint against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration,  which handed down its verdict in July 2016, shortly after Duterte assumed the presidency.


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