The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) welcomed on Saturday the ASEAN’s reiteration for peaceful dispute resolution in the South China Sea, amid the continued presence and harassment of Chinese vessels in the Philippine waters.
In a statement, the NTF-WPS said it “appreciates and supports” the joint statement issued by the ASEAN leaders during the 43rd ASEAN Summit Retreat Session in Indonesia on September 6, 2023, which reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security, and stability in the region.
The NTF-WPS also noted that the ASEAN leaders called for the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that is consistent with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The NTF-WPS said these statements reflect the Philippines’ position and aspirations on the South China Sea issue, as well as its adherence to international law and peaceful settlement of disputes.
“The NTF-WPS remains firm in upholding sovereignty over its territory as mandated by the Constitution, and protecting the country’s sovereign rights over the Philippine EEZ in accordance with international law,” it added.
The NTF-WPS also expressed its gratitude to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for raising the West Philippine Sea issue during the summit and for standing firm in asserting the Philippines’ rights and interests in the disputed waters.
Marcos told his ASEAN counterparts that the vision for the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity “remains a distant reality” amid unresolved territorial disputes and misleading narratives that portray the tensions as a competition between two powerful countries.
He also stressed that the Philippines does not seek conflict but will always defend its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and maritime jurisdiction in the South China Sea.
He urged the ASEAN to leverage its regional architecture to serve as a diplomatic bridge that promotes mutual understanding, strategic trust, and peaceful settlement of disputes.
The NTF-WPS said it will continue to coordinate with other relevant agencies and stakeholders to ensure the protection and preservation of the marine environment and resources in the West Philippine Sea, as well as to promote maritime cooperation with other countries in line with national and regional interests.