Senator Win Gatchalian is calling on President Rodrigo Duterte and the country’s top diplomats to take the lead in brokering a peaceful resolution to the decades-old territorial and maritime disputes in the West Philippine and South China Seas as the Philippines officially assumes the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a one-year term.
“The theme of ASEAN 2017, ‘Partnering For Change: Engaging the World’, reflects a commitment to achieving progress within the region through diplomacy, cooperation, and mutual respect. The best way to give life to this theme would be to act as a catalyst for real change in the West Philippine Sea,” said Gatchalian.
As such, Gatchalian urged the Duterte administration to use the country’s position as ASEAN chair to steer the regional bloc toward completion of the long-awaited South China Sea Code of Conduct, a legally-binding document which would govern the settlement of disputes between ASEAN member-states and China concerning their respective claims in the hotly-contested waters to the west of the Philippines.
Gatchalian, who serves as chairman of the Senate committees on energy and economic affairs, expressed optimism that the final Code of Conduct would fast-track the amicable resolution of the various disputes between member-states, which he believes to be the key to ushering in a new era of renewed economic growth and social progress within the region.
“The disputes in the West Philippine and South China Seas have held us back from achieving our true potential as a region. The Philippines must make the most of this opportunity, as the leader of ASEAN for the coming year, to craft a just and lasting peace for the benefit of the 600 million people who call Southeast Asia home,” said Gatchalian.