MANILLA (Manila Times) – President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe have reaffirmed the commitment of the Philippines and China to pursue peace and stability in the hotly contested South China Sea, Malacañang said.
Duterte met Wei, who also serves as China’s State Councilor, during a courtesy call on the Chief Executive in Malacañang on Friday.
In a statement, the Palace said Duterte told Wei that South China Sea disputes must be resolved using international law, including a treaty used as the basis for a 2016 ruling that refuted China’s claims in the area.
“We must always be guided by our commitments in international law. Any and all disputes must be resolved peacefully in full accord with the Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and all relevant international instruments,” Duterte told Wei.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights to its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, rejecting China’s historic claim to resources in the South China Sea using its nine-dash line doctrine.
The Hague-based tribunal issued its ruling based on Unclos, an international treaty that “lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources.”
China, however, continues to disregard the landmark ruling.
In the same meeting, the President stressed the importance of concluding an effective and substantive Code of Conduct, saying its completion would be an important and lasting legacy of the Asean and China in ensuring peace, security and stability in the area.
While noting the strategic importance of the South China Sea as a vital sea lane where navigational and other freedoms under international law are guaranteed, Duterte emphasised that “all relevant players with a stake there must see themselves as playing an important stabilising role.”w
The Chinese defense minister also expressed readiness to work with the Philippines on “maritime cooperation, advance negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and manage differences in order to secure peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
Wei’s visit came as the country opposed China’s continuing aggression in the West Philippine Sea, which is located in the eastern parts of the South China Sea. His visit to Manila is part of his tour in the Asean countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
Meanwhile, the Palace said Duterte welcomed positive developments in the Philippines-China defense and security cooperation.
He acknowledged China’s continuing support for the Philippines’ defense modernisation since 2017.