ASEAN lawmakers call for 'peaceful' solution to maritime dispute
MANILA, Philippines – Legislators from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) alluded to the Philippines' legal victory against Beijing over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as they called for a "peaceful" solution to the sea row.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez delivered the approved message of the 38th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) at the Philippine International Convention Center on Saturday, April 29.
The Davao del Norte 1st District representative is the incumbent president of AIPA, which held its preparatory meeting alongside the 30th ASEAN Summit from April 27 to 30.
Just like President Rodrigo Duterte's statement as ASEAN chairman, the AIPA message evaded China's island-building activities.
But the message alluded to the arbitration case the Philippines won against China on July 12, 2016 that struck down China's expansive claim over the disputed waters.
In the approved message, Alvarez said AIPA stresses the importance of "maintaining the South China Sea as a sea of peace, prosperity, and cooperation."
"We support the solution of territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means and to exercise self-restraint in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN (United Nations) Convention of the Law of the Sea [or UNCLOS]," said Alvarez.
The ASEAN lawmakers also called for "cooperation and constructive dialogues" on maritime issues in the region.
"AIPA also recognizes the importance of maritime security, and calls for cooperation and constructive dialogues on maritime issues of common interest and concern, including crimes at sea, search and rescue, maritime scientific research, and unreported and unregulated fishing," said Alvarez.
AIPA also supports the completion of a framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea by mid-2017.
ASEAN legislators also committed to fighting drugs in the region. Duterte is currently waging a war against drugs in the Philippines. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs')
"We reaffirm ASEAN's resolve against drug abuse and its commitment towards a drug-free region," said Alvarez.
"To combat the continuing challenges of illicit drug production, misuse, and trafficking, we urge ASEAN to fully and effectively implement the ASEAN Work Plan on Securing Communities against Illicit Drugs 2016-2015," he added.
An AIPA Fact-Finding Committee meeting will be held in Boracay on July 4 to 8, where member-parliaments will discuss how to combat drugs in their respective countries.
Alvarez also identified AIPA's other major regional concerns, including creating a tariff-free zone for ASEAN products, terrorism, migration, and humanitarian crises.
Read the full text of the 38th AIPA General Assembly below: