Philippines gets Norway, Switzerland & European Commission support on West Philippine Sea issue

The European countries of Norway, Switzerland, European Council and European Commission on Monday expressed support for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's stand to resolve the longstanding territorial issues in the West Philippine Sea diplomatically and peacefully.

Presidential spokesperson Herminio Coloma Jr., who was with the President in Laos for the two-day 9th Asia-Europe Meeting, said that during the President's bilateral meetings with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Swiss Confederation President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, European Council Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Varroso, the four leaders supported the Philippines' position to resolve issues in the disputed area peacefully and in accordance with international laws.

"We noted the increased importance of maritime security in the West Philippine Sea and there was an agreement that it was a matter of international interest as a significant amount of trade passes by the West Philippine Sea," Coloma said.

"In particular, Switzerland and the EU and in part Norway indicated their firm support to our position that conflicts or disputes in that area are to be resolved peacefully and following international law and in particular there is firm support for an Asean-centric approach, which has always been the position of President Aquino considering four out of the 10 members states of Asean have specific stakes in the West Philippine Sea," he added.

"Therefore, the only logical approach to any conflict resolution will have to be multilateral and involving all stakeholders therein," he noted.

Coloma said Aquino underscored the importance of bilateral meetings as an opportunity for the Philippines to further enhance friendship and partnership with other countries.

"The President is in a very upbeat and optimistic mood. He is satisfied with the outcome of the bilateral meetings and he feels that this is an important opportunity for the country to enhance its friendship and partnership with the countries of both Europe and Asia," he said.

In the President's meeting with Stoltenberg, Coloma said the discussion centered on improving the working conditions of migrant Filipino workers, particularly in the healthcare sector.

"Norway confirmed its assurance for support in our efforts to land better jobs for Filipino migrant workers particularly in the healthcare sector in Norway and the easing or procedural improvements to create better opportunities for qualified Filipino workers," he said.

He added that Norway the European Commission and the European Council had pledged their support for the country's bid to retain our standing in the International Maritime Organization white list.

"This means that we will be complying with all the requirements of the standards for training and certification watch-keeping of seafarers (STCW 198 Convention)," he said.

The President also met with Swiss Confederation President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf where he extended the Philippines thanks for its assistance in "heightening" and further developing our expertise in disaster risk reduction and management.

Aquino's last meeting, a trilateral meeting with European Council President Herman Von Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at 11 a.m., centered on improving maritime security within the West Philippine Sea to ensure the safety of goods and people traversing the highly travelled body of water.

Coloma said all meetings the President had "went very well" with all discussions on "increased opportunities and intensified cooperation."

He said the three nations were "enthusiastic" in congratulating the Philippines for finally achieving peace in Mindanao with the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

"We see this as a genuine opportunity for reaping peace dividends including increased investments into the Philippines and Mindanao in particular," Coloma said.

He added that in return, the Philippines expressed its support for the requests of Norway and Switzerland in its bid to become members of ASEM.

"And in reciprocity, we supported the requests of the various delegation with which we met, for Norway and Switzerland as they are joining the ASEM meetings and would like to become involved in the dialogues with Asean as future dialogue partners," Coloma said.

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