Duterte invokes UNCLOS in Chinese defense minister's visit

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 11 2020 08:25 PM | Updated as of Sep 11 2020 10:57 PM

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe pays a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo courtesy of Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go

MANILA (UPDATED) - Chinese state councilor and defense minister Wei Fenghe on Friday paid a courtesy call to President Rodrigo Duterte.

During the Chinese official's visit to Malacañang, Duterte invoked the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in its entirety.

"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 and all relevant international instruments," Duterte said in a statement.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights to its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), rejecting China’s historic claim to resources in the South China Sea using its 9-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 continues to disregard the landmark ruling.

Duterte also called for the conclusion of a code of conduct in the resource-rich waterway, which will govern how countries act within the South China Sea despite territorial disputes.

"All relevant players with a stake there must see themselves as playing an important stabilizing role," Duterte said.

Other countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims in the vital sea lane.

For his part, Wei told Duterte China "is ready 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," the Palace said.

Wei is in Manila as part of his tour in the Southeast Asian region.

Meanwhile, in his earlier meeting with Wei, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated the Philippines' rights to the West Philippine Sea as upheld by an arbitral ruling that invalidated China's sweeping claims 4 years ago.

Lorenzana said he and Wei agreed that both countries should continue to resort to dialogue and consultation to manage disputes.