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Commitment to peace

Manila Standard

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has articulated distinctly the Philippines’ commitment to peace while the odds of armed conflict in the disputed South China Sea appear high and rising.

The 66-year-old President nailed the hammer on the head when he said at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore the world cannot afford any other future for the South China Sea save the one envisioned by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.

That vision remains, for now at least, a distant reality, but the President’s declared commitment to addressing and managing difficult issues through dialogue and diplomacy cannot and must not be ignored.

There are today threats and illegal actions that continue to violate the sovereignty, the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines within the West Philippine Sea.

While the President did not mention any state in his keynote address, China’s implacable resoluteness against the Philippines in the area has led to what some diplomatic and security analysts have described as a situation where war in the South China Sea seems more likely than at any other Indo-Pacific flash point like the Taiwan Strait or the Korean Peninsula.

It seems such unrelenting harassment is intended to test the alliance of Manila and Washington, both treaty allies under a Mutual Defense Pact signed in Washington on Aug. 30, 1951 by their representatives in Washington, DC.

The treaty has eight articles and requires both nations to support each other if another party attacks the Philippines or the United States.

President Marcos was clear: “Illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions continue to violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdictions.

“Attempts to apply domestic laws and regulations beyond one’s territory and jurisdiction violate international law, exacerbate tensions, and undermine regional peace and security.”

The President’s message was direct and uncomplicated: the integrity of our maritime zones and our sovereignty must be respected.

This is not only a legal right but a moral necessity. By adhering to international law, we can ensure the West Philippine Sea remains a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity.

The President added the Philippines will not yield in the face of ongoing issues in the maritime region, underlining “As President, I have sworn to this solemn commitment from the very first day that I took office. I do not intend to yield. Filipinos do not yield.”

He said the Philippines will remain compliant to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award that provided the country a strong foundation for the peaceful resolution and management of disputes in Philippine waters.

Manila’s policy in the South China Sea is built upon these two touchstones, by which the Philippines will continue to work with ASEAN and China towards an effective and substantive code of conduct, one firmly anchored on UNCLOS.

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