PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to discuss the territorial dispute over the South China Sea as it keeps creating uncertainty and instability among its members.
Duterte, during the 35th ASEAN Summit plenary session in Thailand, said the dispute must be solved peacefully in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He said the Philippines’ arbitral case win against China strengthened this position, emphasizing that other claimants have no other way but the “path to peace.”
“As ASEAN-China Country Coordinator, the Philippines will do its utmost part to conclude negotiations on a Code of Conduct as soon as possible,” he said.
“Notwithstanding the lack of enthusiasm by some external partners, I believe that we in ASEAN are one in the view that an effective and substantive COC will be good for the region,’ he added.
Duterte noted that the ASEAN must maintain an environment conducive to negotiations and fair compromises for this effort to succeed.
“ASEAN must therefore remain united. We must lead the way in building trust and confidence among all stakeholders,” Duterte said.
“We must use all the influence that we have, individually and collectively, to persuade parties to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation,” he added.
With the rise of a “new major power,” Duterte said countries must not take sides to avoid being embroiled in a geopolitical game, but be united.
Isolating anyone and forcing countries to choose sides drag countries into a “vicious cycle of power balancing and security dilemmas and undo hard-won gains of peace and development for their people,” he said.
Duterte arrived in Thailand on Friday to attend the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits from November 2 to 4.