Canada calls for regional security in West PH Sea, says 2016 abitral ruling is ‘final and binding’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 19) — Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly has reaffirmed her country’s commitment to uphold the rule of law as she reiterated support for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 arbitral ruling on the Philippines' maritime row with China.

Joly is now in Manila to boost bilateral ties between the two countries and to discuss Ottawa’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which seeks to promote economic and people-to-people ties, security cooperation and respect for international law.

The strategy sees China’s “foreign interference and increasingly coercive treatment of other countries” as "a strategic challenge," according to the Canadian government's website.

Jolly is the second Canadian minister to visit the Philippines this year, and the fourth minister to travel to Manila since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office last year.

The Canadian minister met with National Security Adviser Eduardo Año on Thursday to discuss regional security issues.

“I reiterated our support for regional security in the West Philippine Sea. UNCLOS, including the 2016 Arbitration Award, are final and binding,” said Joly in a Twitter post.

“We’re ready to expand security and defense cooperation with the [Philippines],” she added.

China has long rejected the 2016 arbitral ruling that largely backed the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the disputed waters. The ruling also invalidated China's expansive claims to nearly the entire South China Sea.

Joly, in a discussion with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday night, urged the Philippines to support Canada's free trade negotiations with ASEAN.

“Regarding trade, we are negotiating for a free trade agreement with ASEAN. So, we hope that we could have the support of the Philippines. And we are negotiating also to become a strategic partner of ASEAN, recognizing the importance of ASEAN Centrality,” said Joly in a press statement released by Malacañang.

“So, if we could work together to achieve that, that would be very much appreciated because we are bringing a lot of diplomatic knowledge and strength,” the foreign minister added.

Canada has also vowed to strengthen people-to-people ties with the Philippines by offering more scholarships to Filipinos.