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Manila to UN: Keep SCS on rules regime

The Philippines made a plea before the United Nations General Assembly Saturday for the preservation of a rules-based global order as it called for an amicable resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.

Speaking before the 78th session of the UN General Assembly on Saturday (early Sunday, Manila time), Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said the “preservation of a rules-based global order is our collective responsibility.”

”Its present and future rest on the predictability and stability of international law, which safeguards the rights of all states. If multilateralism must endure, all states must adhere to the rule of law,” he said.

The country’s top diplomat said the Philippines is working with other countries to promote a rules-based international order.

”We advocate the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law. This has always been our position with respect to the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, inasmuch as we are prepared to defend our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and territorial integrity,” he said.

Although China claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague invalidated this claim in July 2016 following a case filed by the Philippines in 2013.

China has refused to recognize the ruling and insists on the legitimacy of its massive claims over the South China Sea, including part of the West Philippine Sea.

But at the UN, Manalo asserted that the arbitral award ”is now part of international law.”

”Adherence to international law contributes to keeping the Indo-Pacific, with the ASEAN at the center, free and open, stable and peaceful,” he said.

Last week, the Office of the Solicitor General said it was considering filing another case before the PCA, following reports of damage to the corals in the West Philippine Sea, supposedly by Chinese vessels that swamped the area.

At the UN, Manalo also said the Philippines is working with partners for rules to govern lethal autonomous weapons systems.

”We advocate the peaceful uses of outer space, the elaboration of the principle of due regard in the space domain, and greater responsibility among states to reduce space threats, including debris from rocket launches,” he said. (See full story online at

”We call for UN partnerships that would guarantee that new technologies are not weaponized or misused in any way to subvert democracy and freedom, to challenge international humanitarian law, and to exploit the vulnerable and violate human rights and human dignity,” he added.

On climate change, the Philippines emphasized the need for ”decisive, responsible, just, and sustainable solutions that look after populations and protect persons that have contributed the least to global warming but have the highest vulnerability [due to] their geography.”

The Philippines also joined the call for industrialized countries to abide by their obligations to mitigate the impact of climate change under mechanisms such as the Paris Agreement.

”We thank Vanuatu and the core group of states for rallying the UN to bring the question of state obligations relating to climate change to the ICJ (International Court of Justice). The Philippines will actively participate in the proceedings,” he said.

On achieving sustainable development, Manalo said the Philippines supports ”initiatives to make international financial and development mechanisms more attuned to the needs of middle-income countries.”

The Philippines also supports the Contingency Fund for Emergencies, the COVAX Facility, and other mechanisms that harness the power of partnerships to address persistent health challenges and emergencies, he said.

The Foreign Affairs secretary pointed out that in order ”to foster trust and engagement, dialogue on human rights must be genuine, based on evidence, and depoliticized.”

”When constructive and carried out in good faith and with full respect for the agency of states, collaboration on human rights can achieve concrete impact,” he said.

The remarks follow the current administration’s refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened an investigation into the human rights abuses in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

”Recognizing human rights as an unfinished business in all parts of the world, we remain a dedicated advocate for the human rights of vulnerable groups, especially women, children, indigenous peoples, migrants, persons with disabilities, refugees, and older persons,” Manalo said.

Manalo said the Philippines’ candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council for the term 2027–2028 ”manifests our desire to offer the best of the Philippine diplomatic tradition.”

”We count on the support of all UN member states in this regard,” he added.

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