11 July 2024

The South China Sea has been a centre of contention, with China arbitrarily expanding its maritime territory, under what it describes as a standard map with a 10-dash line, a move not recognized by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Philippines, in particular, has had numerous disputes with China within its exclusive economic zone, extending 200 nautical miles from its coastline.

In a recent interview with Thai PBS World, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines, H.E. Millicent Cruz Paredes, addressed the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, emphasising the importance of adhering to the rules-based international order.

“The West Philippines Sea, or South China Sea, is not the sum total of bilateral relations between the Philippines and China. It is just one part, a very challenging part. For the Philippines, we are profoundly committed to a rules-based international maritime order, which is anchored on two things. First, the rule is the 1982 UN convention on the law of the sea. The second is the 2016 arbitral award on the south china sea,” Ambassador Paredes said.

Ambassador Paredes also emphasised the connection between stability in the South China Sea and the prosperity of ASEAN.

Myanmar is another problematic issue for which ASEAN has not yet found solution. Ambassador Paredes urged ASEAN members to follow the 5-point consensus to address crisis. It calls for, among other things, an immediate end to violence in the country, dialogue among all parties, the appointment of a special envoy and humanitarian assistance from ASEAN. The military junta in Myanmar has, however, shown no sign of complying.

Thailand and the Philippines, both founding members of ASEAN, have maintained diplomatic relations for nearly seven decades. Ambassador Paredes highlighted the significant contributions of the Filipino community in Thailand to Thai society. She expressed her commitment to strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries.

The anniversary of bilateral relations between Thailand and the Philippines falls on June 14th, coinciding with World Blood Donor Day. Ambassador Paredes has actively promoted Filipinos’ participation in blood donation to the Thai Red Cross since her arrival in Thailand. She looks forward to more collaboration with Thailand under the leadership of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

“Thailand and the Philippines are original members of “ASEAN Five”. We look much alike. We have the same weather. We have the same atmosphere. If I do not speak, I am always mistaken for Thai. We are both warm, welcoming people,” Ambassador Paredes said.

From left to right, Franc Han Shih and Millicent Cruz Paredes

The ambassador reminisced about historical state visits between Thailand and the Philippines, including visits by the late King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit to the Philippines and a reciprocal visit by then-President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos.

“King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit made a state visit to the Philippines and the reciprocal state visit to Thailand by our then-President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos happened in 1968. It is auspicious now for the sons, both leaders of Thailand and the Philippines, to meet. This is one aspect that we could look into in the future,” Ambassador Paredes said.

Ambassador Paredes has a deep personal connection with Thailand, dating back to her younger days. A Thai student who studied at the University of the Philippines established a family-like relationship with her and her family in the 1980s. She believes that this personal connection with the Thai people has been significant in her role as the ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand.

As Thailand and the Philippines prepare to celebrate the 74th anniversary of diplomatic ties, Ambassador Paredes announced plans for a series of celebratory events leading up to June 14th, 2024. She hopes these events will further deepen the relationship between the two nations, strengthening their ties and fostering regional stability.

 

By Franc Han Shih, Thai PBS World

 

Full interview with Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Thailand, H.E. Mrs. Millicent Cruz Paredes