President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday pushed for the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea based on international law, which he said should be an example of how states manage their differences.
At the 25th ASEAN-China Summit, President Marcos said the immediate conclusion of the COC becomes more relevant as nations mark 40 years of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and 20 years of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“It shall be an example of how states manage their differences: through reason and through right,” Mr. Marcos said, adding that he welcomed progress on the negotiations over the text of the COC, which he said he hoped would be approved “in the very near future.”
Tackling post-pandemic recovery, the Philippine leader said one way of insulating the people from shocks is ensuring food security, stressing that the designation of 2023 as the ASEAN-China Year of Agricultural Development and Food Security Cooperation is a welcome impetus for intensified cooperation.
Preserving the environment and its resources is another, the President pointed out, as he welcomed the continued support for the Philippines-hosted ASEAN Center for Biodiversity.
At the plenary of the 40th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Mr. Marcos called for regional unity to make the Association of Southeast Asian Nations responsive to present challenges, as he appealed to his fellow leaders to continue creating an inclusive and resilient ASEAN conducive to growth and prosperity.
ASEAN centrality must remain the bedrock of cooperation, the President said, noting the “truest” barometers of ASEAN’s success or failure are the people and the communities.
Amid the backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions, countries must firmly choose cooperation over competition at every turn, the chief executive said.
The President suggested the enhancement of ASEAN solidarity as the regional group confronts challenges such as natural disasters, health emergencies, armed conflicts, and economic recessions.
In this spirit, Mr. Marcos called on Myanmar to abide by and implement the previously agreed Five Point Consensus, noting the lack of development in the Myanmar situation in the past two years.
He also called for the reinvigoration of the region’s economies through tourism recovery, energy cooperation, as well as trade and investment revitalization.
“We should enhance ASEAN food security cooperation through strengthened initiatives and expanded projects under the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry and other related mechanisms, including those with our dialogue partners,” he said.
“We need to solidify our food resilience and promote food self-sufficiency, through the use of new agricultural technologies, in order to protect the region and our countries from shocks to the global food value chain, as well as against adverse effects of climate change,” the President said.
Improved digitalization should benefit micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), e-commerce platforms, and other sectors, the President said, adding digital and cyber cooperation in the health care system must also be upgraded.
To address the climate crisis, the President called for a united voice and urged all countries to fulfill their obligation to attain carbon neutrality by 2050.
Speaker Martin G. Romualdez on Friday congratulated the President on his articulation of the Philippine position on various issues affecting the region.
“The President clearly and persuasively highlighted our country’s call for regional unity for ASEAN to be able to respond to the challenges facing the entire region,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez, along with some Cabinet members and other government officials, is part of the official Philippine delegation to the 40th ASEAN Summit.
He also led the Philippine delegation to the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) on Thursday.
Mr. Marcos arrived with his wife, First Lady Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos, at the Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel on Friday morning and received a warm welcome from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Mr. Marcos is in Phnom Penh for the four-day ASEAN Summit and Related Summits which will conclude on Nov. 13.
On Thursday, Mr. Marcos also joined the ASEAN leaders’ meetings with representatives of Southeast Asian parliamentary assembly, youth leaders, and ASEAN Business Advisory Council.
He also met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni who granted a royal audience to the ASEAN leaders at the Royal Palace.
He also had a roundtable discussion with the Cambodian business community to encourage them to invest in the Philippines, assuring them that his administration was able to steer the economy in the right direction, given the country’s economic figures for the third quarter of 2022.
He described his first day in Cambodia as “productive.”