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PH and Singapore discuss South China Sea issue; agrees peace is needed to benefit both countries
PH and Singapore discuss South China Sea issue; agrees peace is needed to benefit both countries
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PH and Singapore discuss South China Sea issue; agrees peace is needed to benefit both countries
by Karen Ow-Yong16 April 2024
Photo courtesy of DFA Sec. Enrique Manalo X account

MANILA – The Philippines and Singapore both agreed that peace in the South China Sea will not just benefit both countries, but the entire region as well.

This is after Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo had an extensive discussion on the topic with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday regarding the Philippines position on the South China Sea.

In his speech during the official visit of Balakrishnan in the country, Manalo mentioned “the Philippines’ position on the South China Sea, which has been consistent, clear, and firmly anchored on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea,” while the country remains committed to “peaceful dialogue and diplomacy.”

In the same meeting, Balakrishnan warned of a “bleak” future for Southeast Asian nations and the Indo-Pacific region if tensions in the South China Sea escalates into a full-blown conflict.

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“The moment you have an escalation of tension or collisions or military action In the South China Sea, it will immediately impair and impede trade,” Balakrishnan said.

He further explains that the spike in tensions in the contested waters would put the region’s economy at stake, threatening devastating inflationary impact, an increase in insurance premiums, and would waste decades of growth and progress.

Balakrishnan stressed that Singapore, although not a party to the disputes, has been watching recent developments in the South China Sea with “concern.”

“Singapore is not a claimant state in the South China Sea and we do not take sides in the competing territorial and maritime claims,” he said.

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However, Singapore believes rule of law must prevail to preserve regional peace and security.

“If it is just the law of the jungle, where the powerful do what they will and the weak must suffer, [what they must], then the future will be very bleak for Singapore and the Philippines,” Balakrishnan said.

Recently, there has been tension and confrontations between China and Philippines’ vessels in the disputed waters, with dangerous manoeuvres by China, like shadowing and water cannoning smaller Philippine vessels in the area.

Before this, the Philippines largely won a landmark case against China’s massive claim in the South China Sea before an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, but Beijing refused to participate in the arbitration process and recognize the ruling.

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“We uphold the right of all states to freedom of navigation, and overflight and support the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally-recognized principles of international law including UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Balakrishnan said.

(Courtesy of DFA Sec. Enrique Manalo X account)

PH and SG trade and investment relations remains strong

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During the discussion, Manalo revealed that the Philippines and Singapore will be working on “increasing our trade and investment relations,” as well as collaborating on new fields of cooperation.

“We would also work on increasing our trade and investment relations, and on collaborating on new fields of cooperation such as climate change; energy transition, renewable energy and energy connectivity; emerging technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI); and health,” Manalo said.

He added that Singapore remains as one of the country’s most important trade and investment partners.

“Singapore was our 8th largest trading partner in 2023 and solidified its position as the 6th largest export market of the Philippines and stood 7th as an import source,” Manalo emphasized.

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In terms of tourism, Manalo said that Singapore ranked 1st among ASEAN countries as the Philippines’ source of inbound tourism in 2023, cementing the strong trade and investment relations both countries are enjoying for years.

Finally, both officials discussed the upcoming high-level visits, particularly the visit of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to Singapore for the 21st IIS Shangri-La Dialogue, and other activities line up to underscore the active and “close cooperation, enduring friendship and shared desire to further enhance relations” between the two countries, Manalo added.

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