Locsin renews call for adherence to int’l law on territorial rows during 53rd AMM
MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has reiterated anew the significance of adhering to international law as he pressed for the completion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
During the 53rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM), Locsin emphasized that a COC in the South China Sea continues to be the Philippines’ desire to ensure peace and stability in the region.
“It is in international law that we seek refuge. It is through international law that alone we must hope to reap rightful gains. That is our non-negotiable,” Locsin told his counterparts in Southeast Asia in an online meeting on September 9.
China and countries that have conflicting territorial claims over the South China Sea, including ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, have been negotiating for a COC.
China has been persistently aggressive with its expansive claims in the South China Sea, refusing to recognize the 2016 ruling by the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that invalidated its ambitious nine-dash line that practically encompasses the entire body of water, including the exclusive economic zones of other countries.
The South China Sea-COC is an accord that aims to prevent the escalation of tensions in the disputed international waterway.
The Philippines currently chairs the ongoing negotiations on the COC.
Aside from issues on the South China Sea, Locsin and his fellow ASEAN foreign ministers also tackled the pandemic recovery, counter-terrorism as well as other regional and international issues during the AMM and other related ministerial meetings that were held from September 9 to 12.
Locsin underscored the importance of “sincere and strengthened” counter-terrorism cooperation following the deadly bombings in Jolo, Sulu last August.
On the other hand, Locsin called for “decisive, predictive, proactive, inclusive, responsive, and data-based” governance in light of the impact inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“ASEAN is working with its dialogue partners and other external parties in addressing the adverse impact of COVID-19 through various initiatives,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement released Monday, September 21.
Among these efforts include the operationalization of the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, and the establishment of a regional reserve of medical supplies and standard operating procedures for public health emergencies.
The COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund has received pledges from its member states and external partners, including China, Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia, according to the DFA.
Meanwhile, during the 10th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that was also held on September 9, Locsin highlighted the ASEAN’s response to the pandemic.
These include the regional bloc’s inclusive access to vaccines, adaption of health protocols to allow limited travel arrangements among EAS participating countries, support for an EAS health experts’ meeting this October, and stopping the illicit cross-border wildlife trade in order to preempt future pandemics.
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