Lugar says US for free sea passage

MANILA — United States Senator Richard Lugar, who is best remembered for his role in helping oust former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos from office during the 1986 snap elections, on Tuesday reiterated Washington’s position of maintaining freedom of navigation in the Asia Pacific.

Lugar, the longest serving senator in Indiana’s history, is in the country for a five-day visit as part of his “farewell tour’ as a US lawmaker. He ends his sixth term in January 2013.

The US Embassy said Lugar’s visit was one of several stops in a tour of Asia-Pacific nations to encourage the expansion of the Nunn-Lugar Global Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

The program was expanded in 2003 under the Nunn-Lugar Expansion Act, and is focused on reducing the stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, related materials, and delivery systems worldwide to address proliferation threats, according to the statement.

While here, Lugar is expected to make a courtesy call to the President, whom he considers a friend.

During a visit to the Foreign Affairs Department, Department Secretary Albert del Rosario thanked Lugar for co-sponsoring the US Senate Resolution 524, which calls on involved countries to respect the Declaration on the Conduct of parties in the South China Sea.

Lugar’s resolution was in response to Manila’s position to push for a binding Code of Conduct among members of the Association in their dealings with China in light of Beijing’s aggressive claims in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

China is at the center of territorial dispute with the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan in the South China Sea, and with Japan in Daioyu Island in the East China Sea.

Del Rosario told Lugar that the Philippines remained committed to a peaceful resolution of the dispute with China through the application of international law.

The country’s dispute with China started in April, when Chinese vessels prevented Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen from poaching in Scarborough Shoal, which is within the country’s 200 nautical mile, exclusive economic zone.