Militias don’t ease tension, Marcos says at Asean meet

On Sept 5, the Philippine president also warned that misunderstanding in the South China Sea dispute can spell dire consequences for all parties.

Jean Mangaluz

Jean Mangaluz

Philippine Daily Inquirer


Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. attends the retreat session at the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on September 5, 2023. PHOTO: AFP/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

September 8, 2023

MANILA – President Marcos on Thursday urged leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to oppose the use of maritime militia in disputed areas of the South China Sea, a day after China claimed that it was upholding peace and harmony in waters disputed among six nations.

The President did not mention China or any other country when he made the remark at the Asean dialogue with other East Asian as well as Western leaders, including US Vice President Kamala Harris, on the closing day of the annual summit.

Marcos had a so-called “pull-aside meeting” with Harris, but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) did not announce details, except to say that the talks were on security.

Speaking at the dialogue with partners before the summit’s closing, Marcos urged other leaders that while “the Philippines fully supports adherence to international law and the rules-based order. We must oppose the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea.”

“We are concerned over illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and the militarization of reclaimed features in the South China Sea,” the President said.

“We are concerned over consistent actions that are in violation of obligations under international law, including the 1982 Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), and under the DOC (Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea),” Marcos said.

The DOC, brokered by Asean as a whole in 2002, was signed by all parties to maritime disputes, including China.

This is not the first time during the summit that the President made a stance regarding the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, the President warned that misunderstanding in the South China Sea dispute can spell dire consequences for all parties.


“We must not allow tensions in the South China Sea to further escalate. In this spirit and in accordance with the DOC, we continue to urge all parties to exercise self-restraint and refrain from unilateral and assertive activities that would increase tensions in the region, misunderstandings, and miscalculations in the South China Sea,” said Marcos.

Other nations in the meeting were Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States.

The summit’s host this year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, issued a stern reminder to regional leaders during the summit that: “You have a huge responsibility to keep the peace in the region.”

“I just want to emphasize one point: that we are all sitting around this table, have an equally enormous responsibility to create peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We have a shared responsibility to not create new conflicts, to not create new tensions, to not create new wars and at the same time, we are also responsible to ease high tensions, to soften hard conditions, to create rooms for dialogue and to bridge existential differences,” said Widodo.

This year’s summit was held amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea, as well as militarization in Myanmar.

While Widodo did not make mention of specific issues during his opening speech, he pointed out that peace and stability has long been issues in the regional bloc.

China, whose Premier Li Qiang attended the summit, has been the recipient of repeated warnings and complaints about Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea.

“Hard to tell how many times the words peace and stability have been uttered by every one of us. It definitely shows that essentially we acknowledge peace and stability are the main keys to achieve prosperity,” said Widodo.

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