ASEAN 2019: President Duterte calls for self-restraint, binding COC in South China Sea

NONTHABURI, Thailand — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Sunday reiterated his call to all claimants in the South China Sea to exercise self-restraint and refrain from undertaking activities that heighten uncertainty and instability and called for the quick conclusion of a binding code of conduct (COC) for the disputed area.

Land reclamation, militarization of features and paramilitary actions erode trust and confidence among concerned parties and exacerbate tensions in the area, President Duterte said in his intervention during the 22nd ASEAN-China Summit here.

The Philippines, together with other littoral states of the South China Sea, plays a significant role in ensuring and maintaining the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity through international cooperation, according to the President.

 “We are strongly committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and to conclude the negotiations of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct,” he said.

 “True to its name and nature, we aspire to have a Code that would guide the behavior of states on activities in the South China Sea, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

 ASEAN and China agreed on a non-binding DOC in 2002.

 The Philippine leader urged ASEAN and China to conclude an effective and substantive Code of Conduct.

If realized, the conclusion of the COC would be one of the most important deliverables for the 30th anniversary of the ASEAN-China relations, he noted.

As Country Coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, President Duterte said the Philippines is committed to push the negotiations forward and keep the momentum going. At the same the time, he sought for continuing support for the negotiations and urged all parties to refrain from activities that would derail the process.

 “Let us get this job done sooner than later as we are given the assurance of tranquility of the area,” he said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang led the Chinese delegation during Sunday’s ASEAN-China Summit.

ASEAN-China partnership

As the Country Coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, President Duterte also delivered Sunday the ASEAN Common Statement for the ASEAN-China meeting.

ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations is one of the most substantive partnerships between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners.

ASEAN, the President said, expresses its appreciation to China for its strong support for ASEAN Centrality in the evolving regional architecture. In 2021, ASEAN and China will mark the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations.

Although the regional bloc and China achieved important milestones, there is more work to be done. The President said that ASEAN and China should continue promoting peace, security, stability, and safety in the South China Sea, freedom of navigation and overflight and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to threats or use of force.

ASEAN reaffirms its shared aspiration to conclude an effective and substantive COC within a three-year timeline or earlier.

He also welcomed efforts to promote practical maritime cooperation including in areas such as marine environmental protection.

On trade and commerce, President Duterte acknowledged China as ASEAN’s largest trading partner, third largest external source of foreign direct investment (FDI), and an important source of tourists.

“We should continue to strengthen trade, investment, and tourism flows between ASEAN and China, including through the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA),” he said.

“We welcome China’s continued support for ASEAN’s efforts to narrow the development gap among ASEAN Member States.”

ASEAN and China, he said, share a common interest in preserving and protecting free trade and upholding the rules-based multilateral trading system embodied in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

All parties should reaffirm their commitment to intensifying efforts to conclude the negotiations on a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as soon as possible, he noted.

The President also welcomed China’s proposal for closer partnership with ASEAN on the blue economy, tasking officials to continue studying the proposal.

Press Release
November 3, 2019

Presidential Communications Office
Malacañang Palace