President Aquino urges
China to respect rule of law
MALAYSIA, Nov 23 -- President Benigno Aquino III once again apealed to
China to respect the rule of law amid increasing tensions in the South China
Sea due to Beijing’s massive land reclamation and use of force, which he
said has threatened livelihoods of Filipino fishermen and damage the
ecological environment in the disputed waters.
In his intervention during the 10th East Asia Summit here on Sunday,
November 22, the President enumerated the incidents in the contested waters
that have affected the relations between the Philippines and China.
“During my watch, among the first incidents as regards the maritime issue
involved a survey ship conducting studies arising from a service contract we
awarded. It was forced out of the Reed Bank, in an area 80 miles from the
island of Palawan, which is thus clearly within our Exclusive Economic Zone.
Later, Chinese fishing boats were caught carrying species covered by the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, 120 miles from
Masinloc, Zambales, again within our Exclusive Economic Zone,” he said.
“We had been asked not to make these incidents public, and we agreed, in an
effort to deescalate the situation. However, the incidents did not cease.
More recently, a PLAN frigate with Bow No. 571 allegedly accosted and
challenged another survey ship conducting studies on a contract we awarded,
about 30 to 40 nautical miles from Palawan,” he added.
“I have also had to respond to fishermen in my country, complaining about
how they can no longer fish in their traditional waters; they ask for
explanations why they can no longer take shelter within Scarborough Shoal
during times of inclement whether. It has come to a point wherein we are now
no longer allowed to enter areas within our Exclusive Economic Zone,” he
The President said these incidents were among the reasons that prompted
Manila to resort to international arbitration, which China has repeatedly
refused to honor.
Facing all 10 ASEAN member states plus eight major dialogue partners namely
United States, Russia, China, India, Korea, Japan, Australia and New
Zealand, President Aquino stressed that elevating maritime cooperation as
priority pillar will further heighten the relevance of the EAS.
He noted that maritime disputes have been a subject of concern, not only to
the region, but to the entire international community as well.
“It is regrettable that China continues to massively reclaim and build
structures in the sea known by many names, in total disregard of
international law as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in
the South China Sea. Many countries have expressed serious concerns that
these actions threaten freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce
in one of the world’s most strategic waterways,” he said.
President Aquino said the Philippines would continue to push for the
completion of a binding code of conduct for parties in the South China Sea
stressing that “the great equalizer is the rule of law; and under the rule
of law, right prevails over might.”
In light of recent developments in the South China Sea, the Chief Executive
said the Philippines appreciates Beijing’s expression of adherence to
international law in the position paper it submitted to the Arbitral
Tribunal in December 2014, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent
statement on the non-militarization of the South China Sea.
“As the arbitration process we have entered into continues to its logical
conclusion, we are hopeful that China would honor its word and respect the
rule of law. The world is watching and expects no less from a responsible
global leader,” he said.
The President expressed appreciation for the growing support from the
international community for a peaceful resolution of disputes in the region.
“The tribunal’s recent ruling on its jurisdiction over this matter is
welcome news, not only for the Philippines, but also for all nations who
wish to arrive at a durable resolution concerning maritime disputes,” he
“We are determined to see this arbitration case to its final outcome, and
hope that its conclusion will contribute to the directions we will take,
particularly as regards the full and effective implementation of the DOC and
the expeditious conclusion of a Code of Conduct,” he added.
Leaders at the EAS Summit adopted the Declaration on Enhancing Regional
Maritime Cooperation, which promotes peace, stability and security in the
region by redoubling cooperative efforts, namely: encouraging more countries
to accede to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),
ensuring the universal application of international law and respect for
sovereignty, ensuring that all countries enjoy and exercise freedom of
navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, including
The leaders likewise expressed support for the full and effective
implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South
China Sea and early conclusion of an effective code of conduct on the basis
of consensus. (PCOO/jb)