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PBBM to China general: Stable SCS a world issue

Charles Dantes

Identifies seven threats to Asia-Pacific Region

President Ferdinand Marcos said the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is a world issue, rebuffing a Chinese general who raised concerns over the actions of the Philippines that the military official claimed ran counter to regional efforts to keep the area peaceful and stable.

“When we talk about the South China Sea, we have to also remember that the South China Sea is the passageway for half of the world trade and therefore the peace and stability of the South China Sea,” the President said in response to the question of Chinese Major General Xu Hui during the 21st IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore late Friday evening.

“The freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is a world issue. We must include all parties in this discussion because now. It is not just ASEAN member states who are stakeholders – it is the entire world that has become stakeholders in the peace and stability of our region,” he added.

The Chinese general, who did not introduce himself when he asked the first question after Mr. Marcos delivered his keynote speech, said: “In the eyes of the international community, some of Philippines’ behavior in recent days, recent times…there is a risk of ruining the regional long-term, long-lasting peace.”

“I cannot imagine what you must be referring to – if the reference or the allusion is to the Philippines somehow tearing apart what we have agreed on in terms of ASEAN Centrality – quite the contrary,” the President said.

“I think if you examine more closely the remarks that I have just made, I precisely focused on ASEAN Centrality, and that the principles that are laid down, that are involved in the concept of ASEAN Centrality. are something that we must use to guide us,” Mr. Marcos added.

In his keynote speech, Mr. Marcos listed “seven realities” that threaten the stability of the Asia-Pacific region: that the future of the region will be determined by many nations; that the strategic competition between China and the United States is permeating the evolving regional landscape; that the region looks to ASEAN as the institution that should hold the center amid these evolving dynamics; that geopolitics continue to permeate the global governance architecture; that the global commons will continue to be crucial to the security of all states in the region; that climate change remains a deadly challenge for the region and for the world; and that the development of advanced technologies is rapidly transforming human life and experience.

“These seven realities muddle the waters that we have to navigate in our collective journey as a community of nations. We cannot reverse course. We must persevere. We must push through,” President Marcos said.

He proposed three guiding constants for addressing these challenges – the sovereign equality of states must remain sacrosanct; ASEAN and its processes should stay central; and the rule of law and multilateralism must prevail.

“We need to begin by resoundingly rejecting misguided interpretations that paint our region as a mere theater of geopolitical rivalries,” he said.

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