PH raises WPS dispute, equitable access to vaccines in ASEAN dialogue
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines raised the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute and equitable access to vaccines in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Senior Officials’ Meeting (ASEAN-SOM), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced Sunday.
Acting DFA Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs, Ambassador Elizabeth Buensuceso, raised the issue of the presence of Chinese maritime militia ships at Julian Felipe Reef in the WPS as she called for an environment conducive on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
“The continued deployment and lingering presence of a large swarm of maritime militia vessels within the Philippines’ maritime zones remains a serious concern and we reiterate that a conducive environment is crucial for the COC negotiations,” said Buensuceso in the ASEAN-SOM which was held on April 7.
Buensuceso said that the Philippines, as current country coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, remains committed to move forward the COC negotiations between ASEAN Member States and China.
She said that actions that intimidate, escalate tensions, and undermine mutual trust and confidence violate sovereignty and sovereign rights, especially those that run counter to international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
She added that these actions also impede the progress and momentum of the COC negotiations and threaten its success.
Buensuceso also called on ASEAN to raise its collective voice to push for equitable access to vaccines.
She said that developing countries should not be at a disadvantage when it comes to access to vaccines amid concerns for limited supplies.
“We have to raise our concern (with regard to equitable access to vaccines) in all forums,” Buensuceso said.
Buensuceso stressed that while the procurement of vaccines under the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund is commendable under the current circumstances, ASEAN should expedite its collective vaccine procurement to not lag behind in efforts to achieve herd immunity in the region and to address reports of global shortage of vaccines.
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