President Duterte stresses adherence to the rule of law in South China Sea

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte stressed during the ASEAN-China Dialogue the importance of adherence to the rule of law and international governing bodies over the South China Sea even as China is pushing for a framework of the Code of Conduct, a Palace official said during a press conference in Vientiane, Laos.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the President said “it is imperative to have people to people exchange, investment relationships should be fostered, tourism growth in the ASEAN region, international disputes should inspire us to work together with adherence to the rule of law and international governing bodies; put words into actions and be on the side of peace.”

The President stressed the point in his speech during the dialogue between the heads of States of nation-members of the ASEAN and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The Malacañang official said that even though the South China Sea issue was not in the agenda, it was voluntarily raised by the ASEAN heads of State.

“They all had their own positions but the most common position was to work in mutual trust and confidence building and work on the common goals of the ASEAN,” Andanar said.

“But what was underlined by the countries like Singapore and the Philippines was the importance of the rule of law and adhering to international bodies that govern this,” he said.

When asked about the Chinese Premier’s reaction, the Communications Secretary said Premier Li Keqiang was stoically but intently listening.

“That should make everybody feel good inside the conference room,” Andanar said.

He also described the mood during the meeting as serious but happy.

“Everyone looked very serious but happy… well, some of them were smiling while they were onstage holding hands and having their photo opportunity. After all, it’s the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN and China relationship dialogue. No tension,” Andanar said.

In the meantime, he said ASEAN members also approved the establishment of the Code of Conduct.

“China was vigorously asking to begin with the Code of Conduct as well as Singapore, and our President of the Philippines. President Duterte also expressed his approval of having this framework of Code of Conduct initiated,” Andanar said. Cielito Raganit/PNA/