• Marcos rallies ASEAN to let rule of law prevail
• PBBM meets China’s Li, Canada premier Trudeau
• PH leader meeting US VP, Japan PM too
JAKARTA—President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to protect the rules-based international order against countries with a “hegemonic ambition” at a gathering of the regional bloc’s leaders.
Mr. Marcos Jr. then met with Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang on Wednesday on the sidelines of the 43rd ASEAN Summit here — the first high-level pull-aside discussion between leaders of the two nations amid heightened tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
“History will ultimately judge whether the supremacy of the rule of law prevails, ushering in an era where all nations truly stand as equals, independent and unswayed by any single power,” Mr. Marcos added during his speech.
Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos will meet with US Vice President Kamala Harris and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, a government official said Tuesday.
Harris is attending in place of US President Joe Biden, while Qiang is taking part instead of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also invited President Marcos to visit Canada next year during their bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the summit on Wednesday, Malacañang said.
In an interview, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez confirmed the meeting of the three countries’ leaders.
“The trilateral meeting was actually requested by both the United States and Japan for the Philippines to get together here in Jakarta,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez said the discussion will most likely be about the West Philippine Sea and economic cooperation.
“We’re all allies… So I’m sure… the West Philippine Sea will most
likely be part of the discussion,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez added that the President is “very eager” to discuss pressing matters in the region, including the West Philippine Sea.
He played down China’s reaction to such a meeting, saying it is nothing new to have a meeting among allied countries.
“I know that people are putting meaning into it… because of the situation in our part of the world, but at the end of the day, it is really a meeting of friends and allies and partners,” the ambassador said.
The schedule of the meeting is still being worked out, he added.
Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez backed the President’s call for the ASEAN to unite in fostering a rules-based order to preserve peace and defuse tension in the South China Sea.
“The President’s stance on a rules-based approach in settling the South China Sea territorial disputes underlines our commitment to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Romualdez said.
“By reiterating this stand in the ASEAN forum, we are emphasizing the importance of peaceful dialogue and negotiations, ensuring that our sovereign rights are recognized and respected,” he added.
Without mentioning China, Mr. Marcos said the Philippines was not seeking conflict with other nations but was rather protecting its own sovereignty and territory.
“The Philippines firmly rejects misleading narratives that frame the disputes in the South China Sea solely through the lens of strategic competition between two powerful countries. This not only denies us of our independence and agency but also disregards our own legitimate interests,” the President said.
He called for restraint as some activities could complicate the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, and warned that tensions and mistrust between the nations involved could put the region in danger, with severe consequences for everyone.
“We therefore seek your support [to operationalize]…practical measures such as the ADMM Guidelines for Maritime Interaction,” he said, referring to the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting.
“The Philippines is also pleased to have hosted the 2nd ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise (AMNEX) off Zambales and Bataan,” he said, as well as talks to draft a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
Wednesday’s meetings were to be more regional in scope before an 18-member East Asia Summit on Thursday to be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, where broader geopolitical issues are expected to top the agenda.
“At both summits, the vice president will underscore the United States’ enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific generally and to ASEAN centrality specifically,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday, using another term for the Asia-Pacific region.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will also attend.
They will meet with Li at an ASEAN plus three summit where a row between China and Japan over the release of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant could again come to the fore.
Host Indonesia told an ASEAN leaders’ summit on Tuesday that the bloc would not become a proxy for big power competition as US-China tensions continue to flare over Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The roundtable including Lavrov and Harris would be the first high-level US-Russia encounter since a foreign ministers’ meeting in Jakarta in July, where US and European officials rounded on Moscow’s top diplomat over the Ukraine conflict.
A Southeast Asian diplomat present at Wednesday’s meetings said they would conclude with joint statements about closer diplomatic, economic, and food security collaboration between the powers and ASEAN.
In a meeting with South Korea, Mr. Marcos raised concerns about the militarization of maritime features in the South China Sea, saying the Philippines is “alarmed” by the illegal activities in the strategic waterway.
He thanked South Korea for its “continued support in upholding the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) as a key pillar of the rules-based international order as the region faces unilateral attempts to change the status quo in its waters.” “We share concerns on the militarization of reclaimed features; the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels; and other coercive activities,” the President said.
“We are equally alarmed by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing which are being detected,” he said.
“We thus thank the Republic of Korea, together with Japan and the United States, for reiterating the importance of international law in maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific during the meetings recently held in Camp David,” he added.
While Marcos did not mention China, the international community has repeatedly criticized Beijing for illegally building airstrips and military assets in maritime features that fall within other countries’ exclusive economic zones.
In August, Chinese ships used a water cannon and blocked some ships to repel Filipino boats trying to resupply the Marine contingent in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
Marcos also thanked South Korea for helping the Philippines clean up an oil spill in Mindoro in April.
“This is a testament to ROK’s commitment as a partner of ASEAN in responding to maritime disasters and emergencies,” he said.
South Korea has also donated 400 metric tons of rice to the Philippines through the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve, the President said.
South Korea has also provided emergency humanitarian assistance for the damage caused by recent typhoons, he said.
Citing these gestures of goodwill, Marcos Jr. endorsed South Korea’s “intention to elevate their relation with ASEAN to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.” “Such deepening relations continue to serve as a good indicator of the development and evolution of the ASEAN-ROK relation,” he added.
At the same meeting, the President expressed “grave concern over the recent surge of intercontinental ballistic missile launches” conducted by North Korea.
Marcos will meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sept. 7 before he flies home to Manila. With AFP