Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Saturday backed the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea and in the entire South China Sea.
“A code of conduct is the way to go forward to peacefully and amicably resolve territorial disputes among countries in the region,” Rodriguez said.
The President made the call at the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China summit on Friday in Cambodia.
The President said his proposed code of conduct (COC) would be “an example of how states manage their differences: through reason and through right.”
He said he welcomed the “progress on textual negotiations on the COC this past year and hopefully an approved code in the very near future.”
Rodriguez said he does not see any problem with ASEAN nations agreeing on the rules of conduct and resolving their conflicting territorial claims bilaterally and even multilateral.
“The problem is with China, which has been the aggressor all these years. ASEAN members should collectively make a plea for China to respect and abide by the planned code of conduct,” he said.
Rodriguez said he could not understand why China has been claiming a large part of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which the Philippines is entitled to under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“They want our EEZ, from north in Panatag Shoal off Pangasinan and Zambales, to south in Ayungin Shoal in Palawan. Every now and then, they harass our fishermen and the platoon of Filipino soldiers heroically guarding our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the lonely and dangerous seas off Palawan,” he added.
The Mindanao lawmaker pointed out that Beijing is even in conflict with Indonesia, which is farther south.
Rodriguez said President Marcos’s statements in Cambodia were consistent with the Philippine leader’s agreement with Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the two countries to resolve their territorial dispute through bilateral talks.
The two leaders reached the consensus during Marcos’s visit to Jakarta in September.
Rodriguez also welcomed President Marcos’s acceptance of China’s invitation to visit Beijing in January.
“The visit will be an opportunity for him to press China to recognize the 2016 arbitral ruling in our favor, and to respect and abide by a future ASEAN code of conduct,” he said.