PH thankful to Japan on West Philippine Sea issue


The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), thanked the Japanese government for its call for peace and stability in the South China Sea as well as its support for the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling.

The Philippine statement was relayed by DFA Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Affairs, Elizabeth Buensuceso, at the 36th ASEAN-Japan Forum held via video conference on Thursday.

“The Philippines thanked Japan for its statement of support for peace and stability in the region through the enforcement of the rule of law in the seas, and working with the international community to protect free, open, and peaceful seas. Undersecretary Buensuceso also welcomed Japan’s expressed support for the 2016 arbitral award that contributes to the rules-based order in the South China Sea,” the DFA stated in its Friday briefer.

Buensuceso underscored that the presence and swarming of Chinese maritime militia within Philippine maritime zones not only infringes upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, but also threatens the security and stability in the region.

On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines, determining that major elements of China’s claim, including its nine-dash line, land reclamation activities, and other activities in Philippine waters, were unlawful.

The discussion also touched on traditional and non-traditional security challenges, as well as maintaining dialogue and cooperation for regional peace, security and stability.

During the said meeting, the ASEAN member states and Japan called for adherence to the rule of law, exercise of self-restraint, resolution of disputes by peaceful means, and undertaking of cooperative activities to build trust and confidence in the region.

“As a family bound together…the best way to move forward against collective threats and challenges is to present a united front. Japan is our strong partner in maintaining peace and security in our region,” Buensuceso said.

Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Takeo Mori, for his part, said: “We are facing the same challenges, and we are on the same page.”

Japan likewise stressed the importance of promoting fair access to vaccines throughout the world.

Tokyo, which will also host the COVAX Advance Market Commitment Summit with Gavi on June 2, assured ASEAN that it will continue to work on the distribution of vaccines in the region, with a view to achieving universal health coverage.

Buensuceso likewise called for the restoration of the previously existing state of affairs in Myanmar, de-escalation of violence, restraint in using lethal force against unarmed civilians, and the immediate release of political detainees including, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

On behalf of the country, she urged for the swift implementation of the Five Point Consensus reached during the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on April 24, 2021 in Jakarta.

Among the agreements were allowing humanitarian help, release of political prisoners, and appointment of a special ASEAN envoy to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process.

The United Nations Development Programme recently warned that the dual impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and Myanmar’s post-coup political crisis may result in nearly half the population, or as many as 25 million people, falling into poverty by 2022.

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