PRESIDENT Duterte has called on China to respect international law following the recent attempt of the Chinese Coast Guard to stop the resupply mission for Filipino forces stationed in Ayungin Shoal last week.
During his virtual speech at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-China Special Summit on Monday, Duterte did not mince words when he condemned the incident, calling it unacceptable.
“We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments. This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership,” Duterte said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lodged a strong protest with the Chinese embassy and the foreign ministry, when the Chinese coast guard vessels blocked and fired water cannons for an hour on two Filipino supply boats last Tuesday.
In response, the Chinese government said it is within its rights to drive away the Filipino sea vessels for supposedly entering its territory.
Ayungin Shoal of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, which is also being claimed by China. The KIG is a municipality of Palawan.
Duterte rejected the attack by the Chinese Coast Guard and sought the “peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law” instead.
“UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] and the 2016 Arbitral Award provide legal clarity for all countries that subscribe to the majesty of the law. These two landmark documents are beacons pointing us to a just and fair solution to our disputes,” Duterte said.
The Arbitral award, which favored the Philippines, effectively nullified the nine-dash line introduced by China to claim most of the South China Sea.
“We must fully utilize these legal tools to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” Duterte said.
He also reiterated his appeal to China for the creation of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to prevent similar incidents in the future.
The coalition of the country’s labor group on Monday urged Duterte to recall the Philippine Ambassador to China as a diplomatic protest against the recent incursion of Chinese forces within the country’s territorial waters.
“These high-handed, unfriendly and unlawful acts must now be stopped. The Philippines must respond with bolder diplomatic actions,” the Nagkaisa labor coalition said in a statement last Monday.
“Other than note verbale, let us recall…to Manila our ambassador to China,” it added.
Nagkaisa also urged the government to raise the issue in the next United Nations General Assembly.
Despite the recent incident, Duterte noted that China remains an important partner of Asean in fighting the pandemic.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, China was the first Dialogue Partner that Asean engaged. When vaccines were scarce, China was among the first to provide,” Duterte said.
He also recognized China’s economic role among Asean member- countries especially after it ratified the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
“We also look forward to further strengthening the already robust Asean-China economic relations,” Duterte said.
Image courtesy of An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP