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Duterte urges self-restraint in South China Sea row

NONTHABURI, Thailand – The South China Sea must be maintained as a “sea of peace, stability, and prosperity,” President Duterte declared yesterday, amid his renewed appeal for the peaceful and rules-based settlement of disputes in the region.

Addressing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -China summit, the President urged claimants in the South China Sea to show self-restraint and avoid threat or use of force to prevent the escalation of the territorial conflict.

In an apparent swipe at China which has excessive claims in the South China Sea, Duterte said land reclamation, militarization of features, and paramilitary actions “erode trust and confidence among concerned parties and exacerbate tensions in the area.”

“The Philippines, together with other littoral states of the South China Sea, plays a significant role in ensuring and maintaining the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity through international cooperation,” a Palace press statement read.

“The President said that ASEAN and China should continue promoting peace, security, stability, and safety in the South China Sea, freedom of navigation and overflight, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to threats or use of force,” it added.

At the same ASEAN-China summit, Duterte pushed anew for the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to reduce tension in the region.

The proposed set of rules governing the conduct of parties passing the disputed waterway is being negotiated by ASEAN and China. The Philippines currently serve as country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue.

“Let us get this job done sooner than later as we are given the assurance of tranquility of the area,” Duterte said. (Genalyn Kabiling)