PHL raises WPS concerns, pushes for equitable access to vaccines in ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting

Acting Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs and Philippine ASEAN SOM Leader Elizabeth P. Buensuceso underscored the Philippines’ commitment towards progress in the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea negotiations between ASEAN Member States and China, urging all parties to adhere to the rule of law and exercise self-restraint during the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) held by videoconference on 7 April 2021.  The Philippines is the current country coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations.

“The continued deployment and lingering presence of a large swarm of  maritime militia vessels within the Philippines’ maritime zones remains a serious concern and we reiterate that a conducive environment is crucial for the COC negotiations,”  said Ambassador Buensuceso. 

She also emphasized that actions which intimidate, escalate tensions, and undermine mutual trust and confidence, violate sovereignty and sovereign rights, especially those that run counter to international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) impede the progress and momentum of the COC negotiations and threaten its success. 

Acting Undersecretary Buensuceso also said that developing countries should not be at a disadvantage when it comes to access to vaccines amid concerns for limited supplies. 

“We have to raise our concern (with regard to equitable access to vaccines) in all forums,” the Filipino senior diplomat urged her ASEAN colleagues, citing the UN Human Rights Council resolution on ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access by all countries to vaccines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the UN Security Council Resolution 2565 on strengthening international cooperation to facilitate equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The Meeting also discussed a wide range of issues and concerns, including updates on Brunei Darussalam’s chairmanship deliverables, ASEAN’s COVID-19 response, ASEAN Community Post-2025 Vision, review of the implementation of the ASEAN Charter, sub-regional cooperation, cross-pillar coordination, external relations, and ASEAN candidatures. DFA.GOV.PH