Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized Tuesday the importance of defeating Covid-19 pandemic and settling the South China Sea (SCS) dispute during the 38th and 39th Asean Summits and Related Summits under the chairmanship of Brunei.

(photo courtesy: http://www.pna.gov.ph)

Duterte made the remarks during his “productive discussions” with fellow Southeast Asian leaders, as well as the South Korean and Chinese leaders, at the virtual opening of the 38th and 39th Asean Summits and Related Summits, the Office of the President (OP) said in a press statement.

“Speaking at the 38th Asean Summit, President Duterte stressed that Asean’s road to recovery from Covid-19 will be long and difficult as the region is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic,” the OP said.

Duterte, the Palace said, emphasized the need to ensure the “phased and comprehensive” implementation of the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework which contains initiatives and strategies that will help the region recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

He also called for the immediate establishment of the Asean Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases that will serve as Asean’s hub to strengthen its capabilities to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies and emerging diseases.

Duterte, in his intervention at the 24th Asean-China summit, said the “dynamic” Asean-China cooperation would help both sides “combat the Covid -19 pandemic, address climate change and manage geopolitical issues.”

“He thanked China for supporting Asean’s pandemic response, particularly by making life-saving vaccines global public goods,” the OP said.

During the summit, Duterte also renewed his call on his fellow Asean leaders to stay united in pursuing peace, stability, and prosperity in SCS, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

“We have come a long way in keeping the peace and promoting prosperity in our region. We must not allow those with diverging interests to make our efforts fail,” Duterte said.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam are the four Asean member-states with competing claims in SCS.

The other SCS claimants include China and Taiwan.

Malacañang said Duterte asked sea claimants to remain committed to the full implementation of the non-binding Declaration on the 2002 Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, pending the crafting of a final and binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the highly-contested waters.

The DOC, inked on Nov. 4, 2002, aims to exercise self-restraint and promote non-militarization within the SCS. On the other hand, the COC in SCS intends to promote peace and stability in the busy waterway.

“Talks should not remain empty rhetoric. They should be translated into action to fortify the trust and confidence we have cultivated through the years. Acta non verba. Deeds, not words,” Duterte said.Noting the Philippines’ contribution to the substantive progress in the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, Duterte also reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to the conclusion of an “effective and substantive” sea code, the OP said.

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