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Vatican official calls for respect for int’l law, peaceful resolution to conflicting sea claims

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By Felipe Salvosa II

A senior Vatican diplomat urged claimants to areas in the West Philippine Sea to “abide by international law” and resolve their differences through peaceful means.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states and international organizations, met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Tuesday to discuss a host of issues, including the overlapping maritime claims.

“In such circumstances, such situations of conflict, whatever they are, first of all, that every effort must be made that any differences, conflicts are resolved peacefully,” the British prelate said in a press briefing.

“We would encourage parties in conflict to abide by international law and to pursue that as a way of resolving difficulties and problems with the best interests of all involved,” he added.

Gallagher is on a five-day visit to the Philippines and will address the Filipino bishops gathered for their annual retreat at the Abbey of Transfiguration in Malaybalay City on Thursday.

Manalo said he and Gallagher exchanged views on regional and international dialogue and discussed regional issues, such as the conflicts in the Ukraine and Gaza, apart from the West Philippine Sea.

“We noted our shared perspective that amidst the various international challenges and conflicts, the international community must be united in preserving a world where differences are resolved peacefully and on the basis of international law,” the Filipino official said.

Tensions between Manila and Beijing have risen amid the Philippines’s rotation and resupply missions to a decrepit vessel run aground Ayungin Shoal.

Beijing has also barred Filipino fishermen from entering Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground within the Philippines’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

China refuses to recognize a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated its historic claims covering the West Philippine Sea.

Same positions

Manalo told reporters the Philippines and the Holy See shared an advocacy on migration governance and had consistently espoused similar positions on climate change and climate resilience.

“We have actively collaborated on combating human trafficking globally,” he said.

Manalo and Gallagher also discussed a proposed memorandum of understanding for the Philippines and the Holy See to mutually recognize degrees earned by Filipino religious from Catholic educational institutions.| – [First published at CBCP.net]

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