Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has lauded the Philippines’ “principled position” on the 2016 arbitral ruling that President Rodrigo Duterte uttered at the High-Level General Debate of the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September last year.
Suga conveyed his appreciation in a “productive” 20-minute phone conversation with Duterte on Wednesday.
“Prime Minister Suga, meantime, expressed appreciation for the Philippines’ principled position clearly articulated by President Duterte during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly on the 2016 Arbitral Ruling,” the Office of the President (OP) said in a statement.
Duterte stressed the need for nations to cooperate on promoting maritime domain awareness, maritime security, and safety, freedom of navigation and overflight, and maritime connectivity and commerce.
“At the same time, he (Duterte) underlined the need to recognize and work for the peaceful settlement of disputes, stating that the Asia-Pacific region cannot afford conflicts between neighbors,” the OP statement read.
Duterte added that alliances and partnerships must redound to greater stability in the South China Sea and uphold the broader collective interest of the Asia-Pacific region.
“While recognizing the importance of the Arbitral Ruling, Prime Minister Suga also expressed concern over developments in the East and South China Seas,” the OP said.
Both leaders agreed to work closely to ensure security and stability in the region under the rule of law.
To secure the area against piracy, terrorism, and other transnational crimes, Duterte stressed the importance of continuing cooperation in the Sulu and the Celebes Sea.
The two leaders then stated their intent to ramp up cooperation in these waters.
In his maiden speech before the UNGA virtual high-level meeting, Duterte affirmed the Philippines’ commitment on the peaceful settlement of the South China Sea dispute in accordance with the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling that rejected China’s expansive maritime claims in the disputed territory.
Duterte said the PCA ruling “is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.”
“We firmly reject attempts to undermine it,” Duterte said.
His speech was praised by current and former Cabinet members and government officials as well as critics.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s nine-dash line, a geographical marker Beijing invoked to assert its extensive claims in the strategic waters.The decision’s enforceability, however, remains nowhere, as China has repudiated the PCA ruling and process, and the United Nations denies that it has anything to do with the ruling. SOVEREIGNPH