President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos, Jr. emerged as a credible and forceful voice in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during his participation in the 41st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The President pushed for solidified unity among member countries in securing freedom of navigation and forging of a “code of conduct” in the disputed waters, including the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
It was the PBBM’s strongest assertion yet on the sea row as he invoked the United Nations arbitral ruling upholding the Philippines sovereignty over the WPS.
During the gathering, also dubbed as the 10th Asean-US Summit, PBBM also called for the continuation of the ASEAN and the United States’ cooperation in addressing maritime security and transnational crime.
“Let us continue our cooperation in fighting against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and also in combating marine plastic debris and marine pollution,” he said.
In an unexpected twist, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang veered away from the usual Beijing uncompromising stand that it owns practically the whole South China Sea and agreed to observe a code of conduct.
PBBM did not waste time to rally the 10-member ASEAN to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), eliciting support from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
There has been heightened tension amid Chinese navy’s restrictions on passage of marine vessels through international waters traditionally called South China Sea.
Marcos reaffirmed the Philippines’ full commitment to attain regional peace and security in cooperation with Australia, India, Japan, as well as the US.
Marcos likewise stressed the importance of “ASEAN centrality and solidarity” when addressing natural disasters, health emergencies, armed conflicts and economic recession.
“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,” he said.
The President also urged the ASEAN to forge a common stand against the military junta in Myanmar that have committed human rights abuses, imprisoning scores of political activists since mounting a coup d’etat last year, toppling President Aung San Suu Kyi.
The ASEAN denounced Myanmar’s military rulers’ rejection of the ASEAN’s five-point consensus for the restoration of a democratic state, and the junta’s refusal to send representatives to the summit.
Still in the spirit of diplomacy, the ASEAN leaders agreed to give the Myanmar military the opportunity to resort to peaceful restoration of democracy through honest elections and release of political prisoners.
If the junta continues to ignore the ASEAN demands and violation of its rules, Myanmar might lose its ASEAN membership and be penalized with regional economic sanctions.
PBBM got the chance to meet with other world leaders, including South Korean President Yun Suk-yeol, to whom he extended condolences for the recent Itaewon stampede tragedy.
In successfully accomplishing his mission at the summit in the likes of his father’s leadership style, I would say PBBM did not fail the Filipino people and he deserves our accolade.
The Philippines being among the five-nation founding members of the ASEAN in 1967, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. was an ASEAN stalwart.