Duterte vows to have Code of Conduct in South China Sea ''at all cost''
President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Wednesday to push for the conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct ( COC) in the South China Sea "at all cost.
"In an ambush interview at the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Singapore, Duterte noted the "friction" between China and other Western countries, such as the United States.
"Everything has been excellent between China and the rest of ASEAN, except for the fact that there's a friction between the Western nations and China," he said.
Duterte admitted that he was "worried" as the Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.
"You know, because of the treaty I'd like to (tell) China - that is why at all cost, we must have the COC," he stressed.
"So you're there, you're in possession, you occupied it. Then tell us what route shall we take and what kind of behavior," he said.
The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty provides that the Philippines and the US "separately and jointly by self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack."
He said the MDT is existing. "It's not abrogated. It's there. And even - I don't know. It's the decision of the President, Congress, the Armed Forces," Duterte said.
During his intervention for the 33rd ASEAN Summit Working Dinner on Tuesday in Singapore, Duterte reiterated that the Philippines is committed to working with all the concerned parties for the early conclusion of an effective COC in the South China Sea.
The Philippines is the country coordinator of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations for three years until 2021.
"(W)e are committed to work with all concerned parties in the substantive negotiations and early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct," Duterte said
He also reaffirmed Manila's commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
This includes the peaceful settlement of disputes, the excise of self-restraint, and the freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he added.
Aside from the Philippines, the three other ASEAN members who are claimants in the South China Sea are Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
China, on the other hand, has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including those within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of other countries like the Philippines. Despite the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the disputed waters, China has continued with its activities in the area, particularly on its three artificial islands, the latest of which was the installation of a weather system.
In the same intervention, Duterte urged the concerned parties to continue working towards the realization of lasting peace and stability in the Korea Peninsula.
He said the Philippines welcomes the positive developments in recent months in the Korean Peninsula.
He reiterated Manila's support for the "complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula."
Duterte said Manila also supports ASEAN's role in providing humanitarian assistance to all affected communities in the Rakhine State.
"We must together address the root causes and create a conducive environment for affected communities to rebuild their lives," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS