News Release

President Duterte calls for self-restraint amid sea row with China

The South China Sea issue is a strategic challenge that cannot be solved by force, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said on Monday, as he called on stakeholders to exercise utmost self-restraint, avoid the escalation of tensions and work towards the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

Speaking during his virtual participation to the ASEAN-China Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations, President Duterte raised the country’s recent incident with China saying, “We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments. This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership.”

“UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award provide legal clarity … pointing us to a just and fair solution to our disputes. We must fully utilize these legal tools to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.”

President Duterte asked China to remain committed to the conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

“There is simply no other way out of this colossal problem but the rule of law,” the President said.

Also during speech, he said China deserves its status as the ASEAN’s comprehensive strategic partner, underlining the depth and breadth of the 30-year partnership between the regional bloc and China.

The Philippine President pointed to China’s timely assistance to the ASEAN of much-needed COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies to address the pandemic as nations scramble to contain it.

China, he said, is also the first ASEAN Dialogue Partner to engage the regional grouping in addressing the pandemic.

Expressing his views on efforts to bounce back from the effects of the contagion, President Duterte sees enhanced multilateralism and connectivity as drivers of inclusive and comprehensive recovery.

On this note, he welcomed China’s ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).

Citing the recently concluded 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, the President reiterated the Philippines’ call for urgent climate action anchored on the principles of justice and fairness.

The Filipino leader also pushed for the protection and preservation of biodiversity and the marine environment through sustained cooperation by supporting the work of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity hosted by the Philippines, among others.

Joining the President during the special summit were Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr., Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert E.A. Borje, Social Welfare Undersecretary Luzviminda Ilagan, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretaries Daniel Espiritu and Nathaniel Imperial, and Trade Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty. PND