PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea must be crafted “at all cost” because the Philippines may be dragged into a potential armed conflict between the US and China due to the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
The President, in a chance interview before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-China Summit held in Singapore, hinted that the signing of a Code of Conduct between Asean and China can guide the country on dealing with other nations in connection with South China Sea/West Philippine Sea dispute.
“Everything has been excellent between China and the rest of Asean, except for the fact that there is friction between the western nations and China and I am worried… that is why at all cost we must have a COC,” he said.
The President hinted that the Philippines may be in a bind if a conflict arises in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.
According to the MDT, “each party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
“I expressed it (worry) last night (Tuesday), because we have a defense treaty, mutual defense with the US and there’s some, any serious miscalculation can, you know, and because of the treaty, I’d like to tell China, that is why at all cost we must have a COC. So you are there, you’re in possession, you occupied it, tell us what route shall we take and what kind of behavior do you want,” Duterte said.
During the Asean-China Summit, the President – as the Country Coordinator for the Asean-China Dialogue Relations, reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight.
“We also reaffirm the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” Duterte said.
He said Asean and China will continue to maintain a conducive environment for future rounds of negotiations of the COC.
“Asean and China have seen steady progress in the initial phase of the COC negotiations since the announcement of a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, and looked forward to the completion of the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text by 2019,” he said.
During the meeting, Duterte also highlighted the strong economic relations between Asean and China, citing that China has been Asean’s largest trading partner for the past eight years.
He said discussions on further tariff and investment liberalization and protection between Asean and China would continue as it works closer towards achieving the joint targets of a $1-trillion two-way trade and $150 billion two-way investment by 2020.
President Duterte skipped five of his nine events in Singapore to get some “power naps,” Malacañang said Wednesday night.
Presidential spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Duterte was represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. in the Asean-Australia, Asean-Republic of Korea, Asean working lunch and the Second Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit.
“We find it amusing that some quarters are making a big fuss of the President’s skipping a few meetings in today’s Asean Related Summits. Last (Tuesday) night, the President worked late and had only less than three hours of sleep. It is unfortunate that the first event scheduled today (Wednesday) was at 8:30 a.m. In those instances where he did not attend… he took power naps to catch up on sleep,” he said.
Panelo said the President was also skipping the gala dinner scheduled Wednesday night to “rest.”
“In important gatherings of the Asean members with dialogue partners, such as where Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the group, the President attended and expressed the country’s sentiments and stand vis-a-vis the three aforesaid leaders’ remarks,” he added.
After the closing ceremony, Duterte will fly to Papua New Guinea to attend the APEC Summit from November 17 to 18. He is expected to return to the Philippines on November 18.