ASEAN: Follow UNCLOS in South China Sea row

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 27) - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations said Saturday international law must be followed, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, amid the South China Sea row.

The UNCLOS is an international treaty that covers a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world's oceans and seas. It establishes rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources, and guarantees the right of innocent passage.

"We discussed the situation in the South China Sea, during which concerns were expressed on the land reclamations, recent developments, activities and serious incidents," regional leaders said in the ASEAN Chairman's statement. "We reaffirmed that the 1982 UNCLOS is the basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereign rights, jurisdiction, and legitimate interests over maritime zones."

This comes after concerns over recent actions in the disputed area were raised during the 36th ASEAN Summit on Friday. President Rodrigo Duterte also brought up how there have been "alarming incidents" in the South China Sea.

"We emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states," the statement added.

During the 32nd ASEAN Summit in 2018, the Chairman's statement also addressed militarization in the territory.

READ: ASEAN: Recent militarization in S. China Sea 'erodes trust, confidence'

The Philippines and China signed the UNCLOS in 1982 and 1994, respectively.

This international treaty is the basis for the arbitral ruling's recognition of the Philippines' sovereign rights to some areas within the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea that China is claiming. Beijing rejects the 2016 decision and insists on its sweeping claim to almost the entire global waterway. It built artificial islands, blocked Filipino fishermen from fishing, and interfered in petroleum exploration in areas the Philippines occupies and claims as part of the West Philippine Sea.

The recently concluded ASEAN summit, held via teleconferencing among Southeast Asian leaders, primarily tackled regional cooperation in responding to the economic crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also covered the establishment of a regional emergency fund and stockpile of medical supplies for member states.

Leaders also welcomed the possible signing by the end of this year of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP between the ASEAN and trade partners China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand, a years-long trade negotiation now intended to uphold an "open, inclusive and rules-based multi-lateral trading system," and support post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

CNN Philippines Senior Digital Producer Eimor Santos contributed to this report.