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Duterte, Japan’s Suga agree to work closely for security, stability in S.China Sea

President Rodrigo Duterte and Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have agreed to work to maintain security and stability in the East and South China Seas under international law.

In a statement, Malacañang said Duterte had a 20-minute phone call with the Japanese Prime Minister to strengthen bilateral ties between the two nations and build on bilateral ties of "65 years of normalized relations and 10 years of Strengthened Strategic Partnership."

During the conversation, Malacañang said Suga raised alarm over the continued developments in the East and South China Seas.

"While recognizing the importance of the Arbitral Ruling, Prime Minister Suga also expressed concern over developments in the East and South China Seas," read the statement from the Office of the President.

"Both Leaders agreed to work closely to ensure security and stability in the region under the rule of law," it added.

Japan and China have overlapping claims in the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu.

Suga, likewise, hailed Duterte's invoking of the 2016 arbitral ruling in the Philippines' favor before the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly. 

In another statement, the Japanese Embassy said Suga had "grave concerns about recent developments in China, including the Coast Guard Law."

"The two leaders concurred to work together closely toward the maintenance of peace and stability in the region under the rule of law such as the UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]," the embassy added.

In his previous Talk to the Nation, Duterte undermined the 2016 arbitral ruling, calling it a "scrap of paper" that is fit in the trash.

Despite maintaining "friendly" relations with China, Duterte said the Philippines will not withdraw its vessels from the West Philippine Sea.

Pandemic assistance

Duterte also thanked the Japanese government for its donations to the Philippines' COVID-19 response.

"This includes 20 billion yen approval out of the 50 billion yen Post-Disaster Standby Loan and 1 billion yen more for cold chain development assistance. Prime Minister Suga, for his part, recognized and expressed support for the Philippine Government’s efforts to address the pandemic," Malacañang said.

Suga was supposed to visit the Philippines but opted to have a virtual or phone interview with Duterte instead due to the rise of coronavirus disease cases in Japan. — Consuelo Marquez/BM, GMA News