Duterte vows to work for early conclusion of COC in WPS

MANILA President Rodrigo Duterte has assured the Philippines' commitment to work with all concerned parties to achieve early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Duterte made this commitment as he assured his fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders, during the 33rd ASEAN Summit working dinner on Tuesday night, that the Philippines will do its part to realize a more peaceful, stable and secure region.

In our role as Country Coordinator of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations until 2021, we are committed to work with all concerned parties in the substantive negotiations and early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct, Duterte said in his intervention speech.

A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the norms and responsibilities, which aim to prevent conflicting territorial claims in the WPS.

During the regional bloc's summit in 2002, ASEAN and China agreed to set up a code of conduct in the South China Sea, considered as one of the world's most important shipping lanes believed to be rich in mineral and marine resources.

Duterte also reaffirmed the country's commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the WPS or South China Sea.

This includes the peaceful settlement of disputes, the exercise of self-restraint, and the freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said.

The Filipino leader emphasized the need to intensify cooperation amid many the threats that the region face nowadays.

ASEAN still faces many threats, including non-traditional security challenges that divide our communities, destroy families, and hold back economic growth. These challenges include terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization, piracy and armed robbery at sea, and trafficking of persons and illicit drugs, Duterte said.

We need to intensify cooperation and implement previously agreed-upon action plans if we are to address these issues and realize a more peaceful, stable and secure region. The Philippines is prepared to do its part, he added.

Duterte also encouraged ASEAN member states to remain undeterred and focused in performing their crucial task of sustaining innovative and inclusive growth.

He also urged fellow leaders to continue investing in the region and in its people.

We must also invest in MSMEs, the backbone of our economies, by enabling them to participate in the global value chain and production networks. Certainly, we have to invest in our people, Duterte said.

Amidst prevailing uncertainties in the global economy, we must continue supporting the rules-based multilateral trading system. Trade actions contrary to this benefit no one and only threaten the prospects of economic growth, he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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