Aquino in France: China dispute affects int’l community

Natashya Gutierrez
'As a global community, we have a choice: Either we combine our strengths and tackle our shared challenges together, or fall individually to the problems that threaten all of us,' says President Aquino
APPEAL FOR SUPPORT. President Benigno S. Aquino III is welcomed by French Institute for International Relations Thierry de Montbrial (IFRI) founder at the IFRI Headquarters on September 18, 2014. Malacanang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Appealing to France’s long history of fighting for equality, President Benigno Aquino III sought the European nation’s support for the Philippines’ fight on two fronts: the maritime dispute against China, and climate change.

On Thursday, September 18, (Friday, Manila time), Aquino addressed the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI) and advocated “a peaceful resolution” of the Philippines’ dispute with China, which he said affects countries around the world.

The IFRI is an independent research and debate institution dedicated to international affairs. 

“The Philippines has consistently expressed its concern on rising tensions in our part of the world, due to maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. As has been reported by international news agencies the world over, there is an emerging pattern of aggression bent on establishing new realities at sea and in the air,” Aquino said.

He added: “These violations of international law pose a danger not only to claimant countries, but also to the entire international community, since freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce are threatened.”

Aquino also explained the Philippines’ strategies of “promoting the formulation of a binding Code of Conduct” and through arbitration to reach a peaceful resolution. He  appealed to other countries with disputes with China to follow the Philippines’ lead.

“We continue to invite other claimant countries to join us, to accelerate the resolution of this very long standing dispute, which has lately caused much tension in our region,” he said.

The President emphasized, “The international community as a whole stands to gain when the rule of law is upheld.”

He also thanked European Union officials and world leaders, “who have manifested their support for the peaceful resolution of disputes based on the rule of law.”

“Indeed, history has shown us how events halfway around the world can have a profound effect on our shores; no one can deny that our destinies are intertwined. It is therefore in all our best interests to take an active role in forging partnerships that ensure that our peoples are not left behind on the march to progress, and in so doing, perhaps create opportunities for other peoples as well,” Aquino said.

Aquino was in France, the third leg of his 4-nation European tour. He is on his final leg in Germany, after stops in Spain, Belgium and France. He is set to depart for the United States after his German trip.

Combating climate change

Aquino also asked for France’s support in combating climate change. With the Philippines being a nation often hit by natural disasters, Aquino has become an advocate for minimizing the effects of climate change.

The Philippine leader also thanked French support in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, a typhoon which emphasized the effects of climate risk.

Aquino said that climate risk and “threats to the rule of law” are only two of the challenges confronting the world, and stressed the importance of international cooperation in countering them.

“Whether in the experience of our forebears in the French and the Philippine revolutions—whether in our People Power Revolution, or the relief and recovery efforts immediately after Typhoon Haiyan, it has always been clear to me that our efforts are stronger, and that the opportunities we create are vaster, deeper, and have a greater impact when we find ways to increase cooperation,” he said.

He said that in responding to threats that affect all nations, countries can either “combine our strengths and tackle our shared challenges together, or fall individually to the problems that threaten all of us.”

“Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world need to work together to ensure a stable environment and a brighter future. I believe that a reinvigorated Philippines-France relationship can contribute greatly to achieving this endeavor,” he said.

A day earlier, French President Francois Hollande expressed support for the positions taken by the Philippines during his bilateral meeting with Aquino.

In a joint statement, the two leaders said that during their meeting, “they emphasized the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in fostering peace and stability in this part of the world.”

The Philippines has been pushing for the implementation of a binding DOC, which has been opposed by China, which wants to settle its row over claims in the South China Sea on a country-to-country basis.

Aquino said he and Hollande also discussed the threat of climate change “and the need for concrete and effective results from climate talks” at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) on Climate Change in Paris in 2015.

Hollande said that he will further discuss this with Aquino when he visits the Philippines next year, apparently ahead of the COP.

“We agreed that in the context of the preparation of the climate conference, that France and the Philippines should work together and on the occasion of my visit to your country, a visit we can organize next year, we can illustrate what this conference on climate should be,” the French president had said.

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