PH, Vietnam reaffirm pledge to pursue peace in South China Sea

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 27 2020 08:42 PM | Updated as of May 27 2020 10:33 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) – The Philippines and Vietnam have reaffirmed their commitment to pursue peace and stability in South China Sea, where both sides have claims against China's assertions of sovereignty over nearly all of the disputed waters.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc spoke by phone Tuesday and reiterated their pledge to peacefully resolve conflicts in the disputed waters, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said in a statement.

Phúc said the Philippines had “played well the role of country coordinator of ASEAN-China relations.”

“As country coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue, the Philippines is actively pushing for the conclusion of a binding, effective, and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at the soonest possible time,” the PCOO said.

Duterte, meanwhile, said the Philippines is “ready to support the endeavors of ASEAN.” Vietnam is the chair of ASEAN for 2020.

In the same call, initiated by the Vietnamese leader, Phúc assured Duterte of steady rice supply as the Philippines grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2015, both countries reaffirmed their bilateral ties and committed to enhance cooperation in different areas.

To commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations, Duterte visited the communist state in September 2016.

He and Phúc vowed to maintain balance in the South China Sea and expand trade and investment.

In a joint statement, both leaders said they would achieve peaceful resolution in the disputed waters by respecting legal and diplomatic processes, and refraining from using force, "in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)."

China had repeatedly asserted its sovereignty in the South China Sea despite rival claims by Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

In recent years, China has stepped up its territorial claims in the major trade route by building artificial islands and a heavy military presence.

The South China Sea is home to large natural oil and gas reserves and some of the busiest freight waterways in the world.

China has also been ignoring a July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal invalidating its 9-dash line claim.

In April, Vietnam lodged an official complaint with China and the UN saying Beijing illegally sank a fishing trawler near the Paracel Islands, killing 8 people on board.

In the same month, the Philippines also complained of China’s creation of 2 new districts in South China Sea, as it encompasses Philippine territory and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.

- With a report from Agence France-Presse