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Aquino sees chaos if China ignores ruling

RANCHO MIRAGE, California – President Aquino has cautioned about possible chaos in the region if the rule of law is totally ignored in dealing with maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

In the second and last day of the special Association of Southeast Asian Nations-US leaders summit here, the President made the pitch to countries, including China, to respect international law by abiding by the ruling of the UN-backed arbitral tribunal.

Manila earlier filed a case before the Hague-based tribunal asserting its maritime entitlements in the West Philippine amid China’s aggressive and illegal claims in the territory. China, however, has refused to participate in the proceedings insisting it prefers to settle the dispute bilaterally. The Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to issue its decision later this year.

“On the occasion of this important gathering, where we must collectively address the challenges we face together, it is essential that ASEAN shall resolve in promoting a rules-based regime for the resolution of disputes and management of tensions in the region,” the President said.

“In this regard, confronted with the common challenges in the South China Sea, it is crucial that ASEAN collectively and in a unified voice urge all countries to share with us full respect for the rule of law,” Aquino said.

“For this purpose, it is especially important that we all commit to abide by the decision of the arbitral tribunal.

In this manner, we will avoid chaos in our relations and ensure greater stability, predictability, and security,” he added.

The President attended the summit with Obama and ASEAN leaders at the Sunnylands estate in California with talks centered on trade cooperation, security, counterterrorism, and climate change mitigation.

The leaders have called for a peaceful resolution of the maritime disputes in the region during the conclusion of the summit. The joint statement, however, did not directly confront China and its aggressive claims in the disputed area.

From the Sunnylands meeting, the President traveled to Los Angeles for a working visit, that includes meetings with US businessmen and the Filipino community. Aquino is expected to return to Manila on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government is still verifying the surface-to-air missiles reportedly deployed by China on one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea. (Related story on Page 5)

Aquino has asked his Cabinet security cluster to check the existence of the missile batteries in the region and review the situation. The President said he prefers to wait for the report of his security officials before making a comment on the matter.