Philippines won't follow China on excluding West in disputed sea

Remigio Civitarese
Settembre 24, 2020

The Philippines would not follow China's stance of keeping Western powers - including the USA - out of the disputed South China Sea, its top diplomat said on Monday.

The South China Sea code of conduct that Southeast Asian nations are crafting with Beijing won't lead to western countries' exclusion from the waters, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said.

"We firmly reject attempts to undermine it".

In his more than four years in office, it was the first time that Duterte had addressed the United Nations body, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.

His statement on the South China Sea dispute is seen as the strongest so far, given his previous pronouncements downplaying the issue in exchange for Manila's closer geopolitical and economic ties with Beijing.

"The Philippines affirms that commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Seas) and the 2016 Arbitral Award", he said. It rejected a 2016 UN-backed tribunal's ruling that its claims were without legal basis.

Duterte thanked other countries supporting the ruling.

In his address on Wednesday, Duterte said that he welcomes "the increasing number of states that have come out in support of the award and what it stands for - the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition".

"This - as it should [be]", he said, "is the majesty of the law".

"Mr. Rodrigo Duterte's 360-degree turn.is a big victory for worldwide law and Philippine sovereignty against his own defeatist policy on China", former human rights chief Etta Rosales said, adding the president succumbed to pressure for him to uphold global law.

Duterte also defended his deadly anti-drug crackdown and played down criticism from human rights advocates in his speech.

"They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years still enjoys the same widespread approval and support", he said.

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