SUBMIT PHOTO: President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at Davao International airport in Davao City in southern Philippines, September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Lean Daval JrHANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam and the Philippines warned of growing insecurity in Southeast Asia at a local summit on Friday amid issues that China was stepping up its activity in the disputed South China Sea throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Both Hanoi and Manila lodged protests with China in April after Beijing unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on islands in the distressed waterways to which Vietnam and the Philippines also have competing claims. “Even as our area struggles to include COVID-19, alarming incidents in the South China Sea took place,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told an online conference of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders on Friday. “We get in touch with parties to refrain from intensifying tensions and comply with obligations under international law,” he said. China has been pushing its existence in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other countries while complaintants are preoccupied taking on the COVID-19 pandemic, triggering the United States to get in touch with China to stop its “bullying behaviour” there. In early April, Vietnam stated one of its fishing boats was sunk by a Chinese maritime security vessel. China stated that Vietnams claims in South China sea are prohibited and “doomed to stop working”. In his opening remarks at the ASEAN Summit, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stated worldwide institutions and internationl law had actually been seriously challenged during the worldwide crisis. “The pandemic is fanning the flames of inactive challenges within the political, social and economic environment of the world and in each area,” Phuc said. “While the entire world is stretched thin in the fight versus the pandemic, reckless acts and acts in offense of worldwide law are still happening, affecting the environment of security and stability in specific areas, consisting of in our area,” said Phuc, who made no mention of China in relation to the remarks. Extra reporting by Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by Martin PettyOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.