PH in EU confab: Push for peace amid rising aggression in Indo-Pacific

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

February 3, 2024, 4:59 pm

<p>Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo <em>(PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)</em></p>

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo (PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo has sought stronger collaboration among nations to ensure that the Indo-Pacific remains on the path of peace, as he cited the rising militarization and pattern of aggression in the region, including over the South China Sea.

"If Indo-Pacific is to remain as an engine of global growth and human flourishing, especially in the midst of global uncertainties we face and sharpening geopolitical conflicts, we need to firstly keep to the path of peace and secondly build resilience," he said at the 3rd EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum in Brussels.

In the South China Sea alone, Manalo said, aggressive actions have violated the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, and the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Similarly, he said, heightened tensions in the East China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, and the Taiwan Straits "shake the stable security regime that has for decades underpinned the vitality of our region as an economic force."

Reiterating the Philippines' position, Manalo said countries should push for a rules-based order that "guarantees equity and stability in the global commons."

He also emphasized that the future of the region is not shaped by one or two powers but by many actors, including ASEAN countries and Pacific island states.

Meanwhile, he noted that "over-characterizing" developments in the region as a function of the US-China strategic rivalry risks harming the interest of other smaller nations like the Philippines.

"For one, it puts the distinct and legitimate rights and interests of countries, such as the Philippines, aside and secondary to the interests of the rivals," he said.

"It also obscures our judgment: actions that are clearly illegal in international law and against the UN Charter are sometimes justified under the pretext of this rivalry. At the same time, remedies to respond to these actions are viewed by a party in the prism of this strategic rivalry."

The 3rd EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum was held on Feb. 2, bringing together about 70 participants from the EU institutions and EU member states, Indo-Pacific countries, and several regional organizations. (PNA)