PH cites 2016 arbitration award as its contribution to maritime law and order and pledges to deepen EU ties – Manila Bulletin

The Philippines’ arbitration victory in its 2016 maritime dispute over China is the country’s contribution to strengthening the legal order at sea.

(Photo courtesy of the FDFA)

This was emphasized by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. during the European Union (EU) Ministerial Forum for Indo-Pacific Cooperation, when he affirmed the Philippines’ commitment to deepen its engagement with the EU in matters of security and defence.

“The 2016 arbitration award is our contribution to strengthening the legal order overseas. It benefits everyone,” Locsin said in his remarks at the February 22 forum.

“We therefore welcomed the EU’s statement of principle on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the award, that ‘what happens in the South China Sea matters to the EU, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia) and the whole world.” Finally, we are not alone in what we fought for and won alone,” added Locsin.

The head of the Philippine diplomacy said that the country appreciates “the clarity given by the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy on strengthening the role of the EU in preserving a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific by promoting a open and rules-based regional security architecture, and being there for us as we would be for it.

He said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the anchor of this rules-based regional security architecture.

Locsin said the Philippines is one with the region in striving for “a South China Sea of ​​peace, equality, mutual security, stability and prosperity.” With this, he also pointed out that the Code of Conduct (COC), which is currently being negotiated, will contribute to this.

“But we want to see the COC as what it should be: an agreement to act in a certain way that does not give importance or special status to any of its parts or create a special regime outside the ‘UNCLOS; and respects the rights of all world powers, including freedom of navigation. Otherwise, we’ll reject it as self-interested exclusion code,” Locsin said.

The foreign affairs chief also pledged to advance shared maritime cooperation, connectivity, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate action and economic cooperation, as well as mutual cultural enrichment.

He stressed that “the future will be determined by the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific”.

“In this area – with its diversity and wide geographic reach – multilateralism is imperative. For the Philippines, ASEAN and the “centrality of ASEAN” are at the heart of this multilateral order. ASEAN perspectives on the Indo-Pacific principles of inclusiveness, openness, cooperation and consensus building; and respect for international law in terms of regional cooperation are the benchmarks of ASEAN. ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the East Asia Summit are its platforms for dialogue and action,” he said.

Locsin further said that ASEAN and the EU must put themselves in each other’s shoes and walk with them, as that is the only way to find out why their respective directions are.

“It won’t be easy; there will be missteps. And both parties must realize that it will be necessary to give and to receive. And there must be transparency and inclusiveness in decision-making. With the same comparative advantages, one of us must make way for the other or even replace it altogether,” Locsin said in concluding his speech.