PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will push for the enforcement of the rule of law in the South China Sea when the two leaders meet in Tokyo during the Philippine leader’s working visit from October 29 to 31.
Takehiro Kano, Japan’s Deputy Head of Mission in the Philippines, said discussions on the South China Sea have always been on the table as both countries wanted a legal and peaceful resolution to the dispute.
“We are in no position to advice the Philippines [on how to deal with China], but as strategic partners, we would like to continue to discuss on those matters, based on our shared values of freedom, democracy and rule of law,” Kano said.
The Philippines and Japan are in conflict with China over territorial claims in the South and East China Seas.
The Philippines adheres to the 200-nautical mile off shore exclusive economic zone as determined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos).
This Unclos provision was upheld on July 2016 by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which also rejected Beijing’s nine-dash line theory claiming the entire South China Sea.
Japan, on the other hand, controls the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which China was also claiming.
“These issues [on disputed islands with China]are not entirely new. What I can say at this moment is that we have been discussing these issues a couple of times in various levels, and that both sides give importance to abiding by the rule of law, including the international law, the Unclos and basic principles of peaceful resolution of international disputes,” Kano said.
“We are very fortunate that we have a concrete cooperation in various fields [regarding that], including enhancing the capabilities of law enforcement agencies and the Armed Forces the Philippines,” Kano said.
In March 2016, the Philippines and Japan inked a pact, which will transfer Japanese defense equipment and technology to the Philippines and allow both countries to conduct joint research and development, including production, of defense equipment and technology. Likewise, Japan has provided at least 10 coast guard vessels and two large patrol vessels to the Philippines in 2016 as part of Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project.