Philippines and Singapore affirm peaceful end to maritime dispute


THE PHILIPPINES and Singapore have affirmed the need to resolve the sea dispute in the South China Sea peacefully, while citing the need to keep freedom of navigation, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Both countries reaffirmed the importance of peace, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above the disputed water, the agency said. They also reaffirmed peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to threat or force, DFA said.

Mr. Marcos arrived in Singapore on Tuesday for a two-day state visit, during which he met with Singapore President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The leaders reiterated the importance of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, DFA said. 

They agreed to hold talks for a Code of Conduct in the waterway in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS. 

The leaders want the Conduct to safeguard the rights and interests of all parties in the South China Sea, DFA said.

China has ignored a 2016 United Nations-backed arbitral award that voided its claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines. 

The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and China. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas.

Singapore has stayed neutral on the sea dispute.

DFA said the leaders also expressed deep concern about the situation in Myanmar, including the prolonged political crisis in the country and the recent execution of four opposition activists.

The Philippines and Singapore urged Myanmar to avoid actions that would harm national reconciliation, DFA said.

“They also expressed deep disappointment at the limited progress in and lack of commitment of the military authorities to the timely and complete implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, including the lack of cooperation by the Myanmar military authorities to facilitate the ASEAN Special Envoy to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties concerned.” 

The leaders support multilateral and UN-backed engagement on Myanmar and “called for UN representatives and agencies to be granted full access to Myanmar.”

“While upholding ASEAN’s principle of noninterference, the leaders expressed support for ASEAN’s active role in assisting Myanmar, an integral member of the ASEAN Family, to overcome the current crisis and to return to the path of democratization,” it added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza