The Philippines detests the Chinese coast guards’ firing of water cannons at Philippine boats in the Ayungin Shoal, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday.

Speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-China (Asean-China) Special Summit, Duterte said nations must strive for peaceful resolutions of disputes in accordance with international law.

“Let us exercise utmost [self-]restraint and avoid the escalation of tensions,” the president said.

“We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments. This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership,” he added.

The Chinese coast guard last week blocked and fired water cannons on Philippine boats in the Ayungin Shoal.

Duterte also asserted the United Nations Convention on the Law (Unclos) of the Sea and the country’s 2016 arbitral victory over China.

“Unclos and the 2016 arbitral award provide legal clarity for all countries that subscribe to the majesty of the law. These two landmark documents are beacons pointing us to a just and fair solution to our disputes,” Duterte said.

“We must fully utilize these legal tools to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” he added.

Duterte also urged China to “remain committed” to the early conclusion of an effective code of conduct in the disputed waters.

“There is simply no other way out of this colossal problem but the rule of law,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin earlier denounced China’s acts in the Ayungin Shoal, saying it had “no law enforcement rights in and around” the shoal and must “take heed and back off.”

Locsin said he had relayed the country’s “outrage, condemnation and protest” of the incident to his Chinese counterpart.

The Chinese government, on the other hand, also justified its coast guard’s attacks, saying it was the Philippine vessels that “trespassed.” John Ezekiel J. Hirro