PDA

View Full Version : Why there was no ASEAN Joint Communique



gameface_one
07-18-2012, 10:21 PM
Why there was no ASEAN Joint Communique

by DFA Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio
Posted at 07/18/2012 12:32 PM | Updated as of 07/18/2012 12:36 PM


I am sharing this article with the Filipino people to inform them of the real state of the discussions during the 45th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh on 09 July 2012. I was present during the discussions in the different sessions. I feel it is my duty to present to all Filipinos the efforts made by the Philippine Delegation to seek the unified support of ASEAN to the West Philippine Sea issue which affects not only its member countries but the region as a whole. Through this article, I hope to present the real picture during the Ministerial Meeting from the point of view of a Filipino, and in the process, correct the grave misimpressions generated by some who were not present during those meetings.
*
The non-issuance of the customary Joint Communique after the 45th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia expectedly generated considerable reactions and commentaries because it was unprecedented in ASEAN’s 45 years of existence.
*
However, many of those reactions/commentaries were based on erroneous information. It is therefore essential to lay down the facts.**********
*
1. Fiction: There was no Joint Communique because ASEAN failed to agree on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.
*
Never before has our regional association been as strained as it is today — and much of the blame might be put on the Philippine side.
*
Fact:* ASEAN had already agreed on the key elements of the proposed Code of Conduct on the South China Sea for discussion with China. The Philippines was successful in having its suggested main elements included to give the Code the substance it requires.
*
The strain being felt by ASEAN is not attributable to the Philippines but it was reportedly due to the failure of the Chair to gain a consensus.
**********
Within the ASEAN framework, the Philippines needed to be resolute in giving primacy to national interest.
*
2. Fiction: The Philippine Foreign Minister denounced Chinese “duplicity” and “intimidation” in the South China Sea, souring the mood at the meeting designed to soothe tensions.
*
Fact:* The “souring of the mood” was attributed by everyone who was there to the failure of ASEAN to issue a Joint Communiqué, resulting from the Chair’s firm position not to reflect the recent developments in the South China Sea despite the view of the majority of the Member States that these developments impinge on the overall security of the region.
*
On the reference to “duplicity and intimidation,” the Philippines forged an agreement with a neighbouring country for the simultaneous pull-out of all vessels inside the shoal, which we undertook in good faith last 04 June. Furthermore, the neighbouring country agreed to remove its barrier at the entrance of the shoal. Yet to this day, the neighbouring country has not fulfilled its obligations under the agreement and has maintained its ships inside and outside the shoal, as well as its barrier, in its aim to establish effective control and jurisdiction in the shoal and surrounding waters.
*
3. Fiction: The Philippines “unilaterally escalated the rhetoric on the matter of contested islets and shoals – and then invoking the entire ASEAN community as a party to the confrontation.”
*
Fact:* The Philippines has been approaching the issue with patience and tolerance as we endeavour to avail ourselves of all peaceful means to resolve it in accordance with the rule of law. However, the neighbouring country decided to escalate the tensions resulting in the deployment of numerous vessels, as high as 96 at one point, as against our one vessel. The Philippines could not perpetually remain mute over the brazen acts of infringement on its territory and intimidation by a powerful country.
*
4. Fiction: “The very public statements emanating from Manila did not benefit from careful, quiet consultations with our regional partners.”
*
Fact: As early as 2010, the Philippines has been conducting bilateral consultations with its ASEAN partners on the issue of competing claims in the West Philippine Sea. In 2011, it proposed a framework in resolving the dispute within the ASEAN forum. This process of consultation led to the ASEAN decision to refer the Philippine proposal to ASEAN’s maritime legal experts.
**********
5. Fiction: “In the view of some of our neighbours, Manila failed to do the patient work of consensus-building necessary for the association to take an explicit and common position on a complex territorial issue.”
*
Fact:* Precisely mindful of ASEAN’s consensus-based decision-making process, the Philippines has been in continuous consultations with its ASEAN partners resulting in the ASEAN Senior Officials drafting of an “ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Statement on the Situation in Scarborough Shoal” on 24 May. On 25 May, Secretary del Rosario wrote the ASEAN Chair requesting that such Statement be referred to all ASEAN Foreign Ministers for their consideration. Several Foreign Ministers endorsed the issuance of such a Statement. One Foreign Minister, in particular, in his 01 June letter to the ASEAN Chair, stressed the “necessity for ASEAN to issue a timely statement by the Foreign Ministers (on the said issue) as our common effort to contribute to the maintenance of an environment conducive in the region which is of interest (to) all of us.”
*
At the 45th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, Secretary del Rosario discussed the situation in Scarborough Shoal. The text of the proposed Joint Communique’s item/subhead on the “South China Sea” was drafted by the ASEAN foreign ministers and several revisions were proposed to make the text acceptable to all. However, the Cambodian Chair consistently rejected any proposed text that mentions Scarborough Shoal.
*
In the Singaporean Foreign Ministry’s website, the Singaporean Foreign Minister K Shanmugan said that it was a blow to ASEAN credibility that “it was unable to deal with something that is happening in our neighbourhood and not say something about it.” He added, “there’s no point in papering over it. There was a consensus among the majority of countries. The role of the Chair in the context is to forge a complete consensus amongst all. But that did not happen.”
*
6.* Fiction: Phnom Penh’s strong position against the Philippine position in ASEAN is quietly shared by Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
*
Fact: As explained in item no. 5, this view of the Philippines was strongly supported by many countries, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam.* Even the ASEAN Secretary-General expressed support.
*
7. Fiction: “When the ministerial meeting failed to issue a communiqué, the Philippine side bitterly accused Cambodia of, well, doing Beijing’s bidding.”
*
Fact: We did not accuse Cambodia of doing Beijing’s bidding, choosing to remain silent; other quarters preferred not to be silent.
*
8.* Fiction:* “…our strategy is in disarray. After the embarrassing outcome of the Phnom Penh meetings, we definitely have no ASEAN card to play in the confrontational path we chose to take against China.”
*
Fact:* The Philippines has a three-track approach to advance its interests in the West Philippine Sea – political, diplomatic and legal track. ASEAN is part of the political track.
*
The Philippines was able to gain the support of the majority of ASEAN Member State as well as that of the ASEAN Secretariat on the need to mention Scarborough Shoal in the proposed Joint Communiqué.
*
In all ASEAN meetings and in other fora, the Philippines has consistently advocated a peaceful and rules-based approach in resolving maritime territorial disputes in accordance with international law, specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and has been engaging China in continuing dialogues and consultations.
*
We are resolute in maintaining this strategic three-track approach.
*
9. Fiction: Our new Ambassador to Beijing intimated that one of the difficulties she must deal with in her assignment is a view among her superiors that sees China as an enemy.
*
Fact: This is clearly a misquote of what has been written. The mandate of the DFA is to reaffirm that we are seeking positive relations with China as a friend and partner and that the bilateral agenda should be vigorously pursued while abstracting contentious issues which should be dealt with separately.
*
10.* Fiction: The Philippine Foreign Minister, in disgust, had walked out of the meeting.

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 08:09 AM
No Asean unity in sea row with China

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:40 am | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

PHNOM PENH—President Benigno Aquino on Monday said the Philippines would keep speaking out on the global stage over its territorial dispute with China, as an effort by Southeast Asian nations to forge a united stand fell apart.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) decided on Sunday to ask China to start formal talks “as soon as possible” on crafting a legally binding code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) aimed at preventing violence over disputed territories.

But the effort at speaking as one proved short-lived, with the Asean leaders feuding on Monday over how to handle the territorial disputes between China and four of the bloc’s members—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Asean leaders, holding their 21st summit here, had hoped to present a united front on the West Philippine Sea territorial rows as they hosted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and US President Barack Obama for annual talks.

But that effort broke down just before the Asean leaders were scheduled to meet Wen, amid divisions between Chinese ally Cambodia and the Philippines.

Cambodia, chair of this year’s summit, said on Sunday that Asean leaders had agreed not to “internationalize” the disputes and would confine negotiations to those between the bloc and China.

The apparent deal would have been a victory for China, which has long insisted that it should only negotiate directly with rival countries and that the Philippines should not seek support from the United States.

But President Aquino on Monday publicly rebuked Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, telling his fellow leaders no such consensus had been reached and he would continue to speak out on the global stage.

“The Asean route is not the only route for us,” Mr. Aquino said at the close of the 15th Asean-Japan Summit, one of the side meetings of the Asean Summit.

He took exception to Hun Sen’s remarks that the Asean countries had agreed to negotiate the West Philippine Sea disputes within an “Asean-China” framework.

National interest

Mr. Aquino interpreted Hun Sen’s statement to mean the exclusion of other international avenues to resolve the territorial rows, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), a Malacanang official told Manila reporters here, explaining what happened during the Asean meeting with Japan.

“As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interest,” Mr. Aquino said during his intervention as Hun Sen was bringing the Asean-Japan summit to a close.

“Hun Sen was about to finish his concluding remarks when President Aquino raised his hand and he made a significant intervention,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma told a briefing for Manila reporters at the Landscape Hotel here.

Reading from his notes, he quoted Mr. Aquino as saying, “There were several views expressed yesterday on Asean unity [that] we did not realize [would] be translated an Asean consensus.”

“For the record this was not our understanding. The Asean route is not the only route for us. As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interest,” the President said.

“The chair, Prime Minister Hun Sen, duly acknowledged the intervention, and he said this will be reflected in the record of the meeting,” Coloma said.

Coloma said Mr. Aquino was listening to Hun Sen’s closing message when Hun Sen began wrapping up the proceedings. At one point Hun Sen began to talk about Asean having reached a consensus on putting discussions within an “Asean-China framework.”

“It was at this point that I noticed the President raised his hand for his intervention,” Coloma recalled.

[I]Inutile accords

Coloma said giving a specific focus on Asean and China would render inutile existing agreements, from the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a nonbinding document to govern the talks, to the Unclos, on which the Philippines’ territorial claims were mostly based.

“So if the mention of international law or of the UN is already omitted and there is specific focus on simply Asean and China, then that changes the whole context,” he said.

“The President’s statement speaks for itself. It points out that the statement of the chairman is not consistent with his own recollection or with his own understanding of the context of what has been discussed so far and he stated it plainly and simply.”

But Coloma said the President’s position should not be interpreted as going against the principle of Asean unity.

“To state that there should be Asian-Asean unity does not preclude any country or any member state from asserting its national interest,” he said.

Coloma said the President felt the need to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty as enshrined in the Constitution.

“We are affirming our belief that this matter should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law, including Unclos. It’s important in a forum to affirm and reaffirm these principles because it involves an issue of sovereignty,” he said.

PH concurrence

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, in a Nov. 18 letter addressed to Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, said the Philippines concurred with the principle of Asean unity.

“It is, nevertheless, the inherent right of every sovereign state to defend its national interest when deemed necessary,” Del Rosario said.

His letter referred to a call by Cambodia for manifestations of Asean unity among the Asean leaders during their retreat on Sunday afternoon.

Coloma said the Philippines was not alone in raising China-related issues at the meetings.

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda admitted his country’s relation with China was “difficult” at present, but “the two countries are constantly communicating and are determined to maintain peace and stability,” Coloma said.

In the same summit, Vietnam also raised the implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the six-point principle, and the early formulation of the code of conduct, Coloma said.

He added that Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung underscored the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea and the peaceful resolution of the dispute through Unclos.

Monday’s feud echoed the unprecedented infighting at an Asean foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh in July, which ended for the first time in the bloc’s 45-year history without a joint communiqué.

The Philippines and Vietnam had wanted the communiqué to make specific reference to their disputes with China. But Cambodia, the host of the July talks and China’s close ally, blocked the moves.

China, which claims nearly the entire West Philippine Sea, has long resisted discussion of the territorial disputes on international forums, insisting on one-one-one negotiations with its rivals.

Hun Sen raised the proposed talks on the code of conduct with Wen on Sunday night, but China appeared to give no ground.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang told reporters after the meeting that China wanted to continue with the current framework of lower-level negotiations that was agreed on a decade ago.

President Aquino raised the Philippines’ concerns over the West Philippine Sea in the meeting between Asean leaders and Wen on Monday, Qin said.

“It was only mentioned in general terms by the Philippines,” he said, insisting that all other countries were only interested in economic issues.

“No other country talked about it. All countries are interested in economic growth, sustainable, balanced development in this region,” he said.

Temperatures could rise again later Monday when Obama joins the East Asia Summit, a two-day event also involving the leaders of Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia.

Obama has previously angered China, and emboldened the Philippines, by calling for the rival claimants to agree on a legally binding code of conduct to govern their actions in the West Philippine Sea. With reports from AP and AFP

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 08:21 AM
PH hits ‘coercive economic diplomacy’

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:55 am | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

PHNOM PENH—In a message unmistakably directed at China, President Aquino on Monday told other Southeast Asian leaders gathered here that economic pressure should not be used to resolve worsening territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Addressing other heads of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) at the 15th Asean-Japan Summit, one of the side meetings at the 21st Asean Summit, Mr. Aquino said negotiations to solve territorial disputes in the region must be founded on the rule of law, not economic coercion.

“We must all work to ensure that mechanisms are in place, and are utilized to resolve tensions; that economic pressure, which can sometimes be perceived as coercive, is not used as an approach to settle disputes,” he said.

Mr. Aquino was clearly alluding to what some analysts had described as China’s “coercive economic diplomacy” involving weaker nations in staking its claim to virtually the entire West Philippine Sea.

As Chinese and Philippine ships faced off with each other at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea earlier this year, China began to impose stringent quarantine requirements on Philippine fruit.

Some commentators called the episode the “Banana War” between the two countries, as the fruit involved was banana from Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

Chinese travel agencies also suspended tourism to the Philippines. But the tactic failed because China was only a minor tourist market for the Philippines.

In his statement, Mr. Aquino first praised Japan, another country rowing with China over a group of islands in the East China Sea, for rebuilding itself “from the ashes of war” in only the span of a few generations.

“As our shared experience might show, growth begins— and is sustained—by ensuring that rules are clearly articulated and followed. This is the same principle that will redound to our communal benefit in the conduct of interstate relations,” he said.

Aquino then proceeded to assert the Philippine position that all the parties with claims in the West Philippine Sea must respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), which conflicted with China’s “nine-dash claim” over the area.

“The rule of law, such as that enshrined in the Unclos, must therefore be the bedrock of engagement with other members of the community of nations,” he said.

The Philippines, Aquino added, “will continue to uphold this principle in its engagement with Asean, Japan, and other stakeholders, as the region strives to resolve overlapping maritime claims.”

The UNCLOS sets the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to up to 200 nautical miles from the coast in which states have the right to explore and exploit natural resources but allow freedom of navigation and overflight to others.

The Philippines has bickered with China over certain isles and reefs in the vicinity of the Spratly chain, as well as over the Scarborough shoal, that fall within the former’s EEZ and conflict with the latter’s nine-dash claim.

The nine-dash claim is China’s delineation of its territory in the South China Sea, with nine dashes on the map that enclose all of the Spratly group of islands, parts of which are claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The Philippines has filed a protest with the United Nations challenging China’s nine-dash claim that encompasses the whole West Philippine Sea. Scarborough Shoal lies north of the Spratlys, 120 kilometers off Zambales province on the western coast of Luzon.

The West Philippine Sea is home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and believed to sit atop vast natural resources, a potential military flash point.

The maritime tensions are expected to dominate talks here among Asean leaders and regional partners, including US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Asean groups Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 01:06 PM
Tensions flare over South China Sea at Asian summit
By Jason Szep and James Pomfret

PHNOM PENH | Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:55pm GMT

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Japan warned on Monday that a row over the South China Sea could damage "peace and stability" in Asia as China stalled on a plan to ease tensions and disagreements flared between the Philippines and Cambodia over the dispute.

The acrimony provided an uneasy backdrop to U.S. President Barack Obama's arrival in Cambodia for a regional summit where he is expected to urge China and Southeast Asian nations to resolve the row, one of Asia's biggest security issues.

The benefits of investing in AsiaDownload MagazineJapanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda challenged efforts by summit host Cambodia, a staunch China ally, to limit discussions on the mineral-rich sea, where China's territorial claims overlap those of four Southeast Asian countries and of Taiwan.

"Prime Minister Noda raised the issue of the South China Sea, noting that this is of common concern for the international community, which would have direct impact on peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific," a Japanese government statement said after Noda met leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

That followed a statement on Sunday from Kao Kim Hourn, a Cambodian foreign ministry official, who said Southeast Asian leaders "had decided that they will not internationalise the South China Sea from now on."

In a sign of tension, Philippine President Benigno Aquino disputed the Cambodian statement and said no such agreement was reached, voicing his objections intense final minutes of discussions between Noda and Southeast Asian leaders.

As Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen began to conclude the meeting with Noda, Aquino abruptly raised his hand and tersely interjected.

"There were several views expressed yesterday on ASEAN unity which we did not realise would be translated into an ASEAN consensus," he said, according to his spokesman. "For the record, this was not our understanding. The ASEAN route is not the only route for us. As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interests."

Alternative diplomatic routes for the Philippines would likely involve the United States, one of its closest allies, which has said it has a national interest in freedom of navigation through the South China Sea's vital shipping lanes.

ASEAN on Sunday agreed to formally ask China to start talks on a Code of Conduct (CoC) aimed at easing the risk of naval flashpoints, according to its Secretary General, Surin Pitsuwan. But Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao appeared to play down the need for urgent action in talks on Sunday night with Hun Sen.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he could "not recall" Hun Sen making a formal request for talks.

"It takes some time for China and ASEAN to discuss the CoC," he said. He repeated Cambodia's statement that ASEAN had reached a "common position" not to internationalise the issue, directly contradicting Aquino.

Obama will meet Southeast Asian leaders on Monday evening before sitting down with Wen on Tuesday.

China's sovereignty claims over the stretch of water off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.

Sino-Japanese relations are also under strain after the Japanese government bought disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China from a private Japanese owner in September, triggering violent protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese products across China.

China prefers to address conflicts through one-on-one talks.

U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE

Obama's visit to Cambodia, the first by a U.S. president, underlines an expansion of U.S. military and economic interests in Asia under last year's so-called "pivot" from conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel, since Obama began shifting foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia late last year.

Cambodia has used its powers as ASEAN chair this year to limit discussion on the South China Sea. Its apparent rewards include Chinese largesse, including a $100 million loan to set up Cambodia's largest cement plant signed the day Wen arrived.

Thailand, which holds the position of ASEAN's official coordinator with China, appeared to support the U.S. view that countries beyond ASEAN and China had a national interest in resolving the dispute.

At stake is control over what are believed to be significant reserves of oil and gas. Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the entire sea range from 28 billion to as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a March 2008 report.

While the territorial row was a matter for the "parties concerned," maritime security and freedom of navigation were an international concern, said Sihasak Phuangketkeow, permanent secretary at Thailand's foreign ministry.

"If it comes to the broader issue of maritime security, meaning freedom of navigation, security of sea lanes, I think that is a concern of all countries," he told reporters.

The tensions illustrate the difficulty of forging a Southeast Asian consensus over how to deal with an increasingly assertive China. Southeast Asia had hoped avoid a repeat of an embarrassing breakdown of talks in July over competing claims in the mineral-rich waters, its biggest security challenge.

Washington insists its "pivot" is not about containing China or a permanent return to military bases of the past, but it has increased its military presence in the Philippines and other areas near vital sea lanes in the South China Sea.

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato, Stuart Grudgings and Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 01:08 PM
Aquino rebukes Hun Sen as China drives a wedge in ASEAN

By: Jason Szep and Manuel Mogato, Reuters | Martin Abbugao, Agence France-Presse

November 19, 2012 6:15 PM

PHNOM PENH - President Benigno Aquino III on Monday publicly disagreed with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen over how ASEAN should handle contentious territorial disputes in the South China Sea, as Japan warned that the issue could directly influence "peace and stability" in Asia.

Wading into one of Asia's most divisive and vexing security problems, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda challenged efforts by summit host Cambodia to limit discussions on the South China Sea, where China's territorial claims overlap those of four Southeast Asian countries and of Taiwan.

"Prime Minister Noda raised the issue of the South China Sea, noting that this is of common concern for the international community, which would have direct impact on peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific," a Japanese government statement said after Noda met leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

That followed a statement on Sunday from Kao Kim Hourn, a Cambodian foreign ministry official, who said Southeast Asian leaders "had decided that they will not internationalise the South China Sea from now on."

In a sign of tensions within Southeast Asia over Chinese sovreignty claims, Philippine President Benigno Aquino disputed the Cambodian statement and said no such agreement had been reached, voicing his objections in tense final minutes of discussions between Noda and Southeast Asian leaders.

As Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen began to conclude the meeting, Aquino abruptly raised his hand and tersely interjected.

"There were several views expressed yesterday on ASEAN unity which we did not realise would be translated into an ASEAN consensus," he said, according to his spokesman. "For the record, this was not our understanding. The ASEAN route is not the only route for us. As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interests."

Alternative diplomatic routes for the Philippines would likely involve the United States, a close ally. Cambodia, on the other hand, has deep ties with China.

US President Barack Obama will meet Southeast Asian leaders on Monday evening before sitting down with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday. He is widely expected to raise the issue of South China Sea tensions.

China has repeatedly sought to reject involvement by nations outside Southeast Asia at a sensitive time, as Washington seeks an expanded military and diplomatic presence in the region under a so-called "pivot" from conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan announced last year.

China's assertion of sovereignty over the stretch of water off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia has set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts, making it Asia's biggest potential military trouble spot.

U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE

The Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel since Obama began shifting foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia late last year.

Cambodia has used its powers as ASEAN chair this year to limit discussion on the South China Sea, in line with Beijing's view the disputes should be discussed on a bilateral basis.

Kao of the Cambodian foreign ministry said on Sunday the ASEAN bloc had agreed to confine talks on a set of rules for operating in the South China Sea to its meetings with China.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, however, told reporters that Vietnam shared the Philippines' objections to that Cambodian statement. Vietnam officials were not immediately available to confirm that.

UNITED FRONT?

The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations had hoped to present a united front on the South China Sea row as they host Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and US President Barack Obama for annual talks.

But the feud between the Philippines and Cambodia echoed unprecedented infighting at an ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in Phnom Penh in July, which ended for the first time in the bloc's 45-year history without a joint communique.

The Philippines and Vietnam had wanted the communique to make specific reference to their disputes with China. But Cambodia, the hosts of the talks and a close China ally, blocked the moves.

ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, have claims to parts of the sea, which is home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in fossil fuels.

But China insists it has sovereign rights to virtually all of the sea.

Tensions have risen steadily over the past two years, with the Philippines and Vietnam accusing China of increasingly aggressive diplomatic tactics to stake its claims.

Temperatures could rise again later Monday when Obama arrives in Phnom Penh to join the East Asia Summit, a two-day event also involving the leaders of Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia.

Obama has previously angered China, and emboldened the Philippines, by calling for the rival claimants to agree on a legally binding code of conduct to govern their actions over the sea.

Analysts said he would likely repeat that call in Phnom Penh, as well as make comments highlighting the importance of freedom of navigation in the sea.

ASEAN officials had said they would push Wen during their talks on Monday to quickly start high-level, formal negotiations on a code of conduct.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang insisted that China wanted to continue with the current arrangement of lower-level talks on the issue. "We already have good discussions with ASEAN," Qin said.

Even with the South China Sea row festering, countries involved in the East Asia Summit were expected to focus on ways to expand economic ties.

ASEAN nations are set to officially launch negotiations on Tuesday for an enormous free trade pact with China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

And despite their own territorial rows, China, Japan and South Korea are likely to hold talks in Phnom Penh on Tuesday aimed at kickstarting three-way free trade negotiations, according to Qin.

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 01:10 PM
Aquino to US: Speak up on West PH Sea

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:07 am | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia–– As the show of unity among Southeast Asian leaders appeared to crumble over differences in the approach to South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) tensions, President Aquino pointedly asked the United States on Monday to be involved in the discussions, a move likely to anger China.

“It is especially vital to have the world’s largest national economy involved in the discussions considering the interconnectedness of our current milieu,” he told an audience that included US President Barack Obama and fellow leaders in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Aquino’s call came at a particularly sensitive time during the 21st Asean Summit and related summits here after he openly rebuked host Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen for saying a consensus had been reached not to internationalize the issue.

He said the Philippines and another country, later identified in news reports as Vietnam, did not agree to exclude other parties from the negotiations with China for a solution to the raft of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a portion of which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

China has long insisted that the disputes should be resolved through bilateral or country-to-country talks and opposed the involvement of external parties such as the United States, while the Philippines has pushed for a multilateral solution.

Addressing the 4th Asean-US Leaders Meeting, one of the side summits here, Mr. Aquino said the United States, the Philippines’ most important ally, had a role to play in the discussions, especially in light of its touted “pivot” to the Pacific to check China’s growing military assertiveness.

“Each one of our nations has a stake in the stability of Southeast Asia. The United States understands this and, for this reason, has chosen to work with us to ensure the peace and continuous advancement of our region,” he said.

Aquino said the US presence at the Asean summits “adds a special dimension to our regional discussions particularly on issues that have far-reaching political and economic implications.”

“Our region is very diverse and its harmony can easily be disrupted by sheer political, military, or economic might. Imbalance, as we know, may lead to instability,” he said.

“While we are all aware that the US does not take sides in disputes, they do have a strategic stake in the freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, and the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Mr. Aquino said.

He then proceeded to lay out the Philippine position that territorial and maritime disputes should be settled peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law.

“We continue to support the further inclusion of economies active in the region in these discussions. They serve to expand our capacities as an organization and they will certainly accelerate our progress in the pursuit of shared prosperity for the region,” he said.

Later in the evening, during a briefing for Philippine media at Sofitel, where Mr. Aquino was billeted, the President said the US, as the biggest economy, should not be left out of the talks considering its own stakes in the region.

“We recognize that they also have a right to say their piece and to be active in advancing also their interests. We have long said that if it’s a multilateral problem, you can’t have a bilateral solution,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Aquino made a terse interjection as Hun Sen was bringing another side meeting, the 4th Asean-Japan Summit, to a close, in which, while summarizing the proceedings, the Cambodian leader said there was now Asean consensus to keep negotiations within an “Asean-China framework.”

At that point, the Philippine president raised his hand to object. “The Asean route is not the only route for us,” he said. Mr. Aquino said the Philippines, as a sovereign state, had the right to defend its national interest.

But in the media briefing, he said that besides Hun Sen’s statement about not internationalizing the issue, he had no other complaints against the host Cambodia, a close China ally.

“They allowed me to keep talking. I have no complaints. Actually (Hun Sen) even apologized when he did not immediately see me raising my hand…. They did not try to block what I wanted to say. There were no behind-the-scenes request for me to keep quiet,” he said.

Relations between Cambodia and the Philippines turned frosty after an Asean foreign ministers meeting in July when they tussled over the language of a customary joint communique that was supposed to be issued at the end of the talks.

Phnom Penh, the host of the 2012 summits, including the foreign ministers meeting in July, came under criticism when it rejected any mention of disputes of individual Asean states with Beijing, particularly Scarborough Shoal, which was then at the center of a maritime standoff between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

The deadlock stymied the issuance of a joint communique at the close of the meeting, the first time in Asean’s 45-year history, and critics alleged that Cambodia was acting under pressure from China, which did not want any references to the territorial disputes in the statement.

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, along with Taiwan, have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, while China claims virtually the whole body of water as its own, often sparking maritime tensions.

The South China Sea is believed to hold vast deposits of oil and gas and is home to sea lanes through which half of global trade passes.

In April, a standoff that lasted months occurred between Chinese and Filipino forces over the disputed Scarborough shoal off Zambales province.

Sam Miguel
11-21-2012, 09:11 AM
Obama: No need to escalate sea dispute

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:56 am | Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

PHNOM PENH—As the show of unity within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations appeared to crumble, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Asian leaders to rein in tensions, saying there was no reason to risk an escalation of their territorial disputes.

Speaking at the 21st Asean Summit, Obama stopped short of firmly backing allies Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in their disputes with China over a cluster of isles historically called the South China Sea and which Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea.

“President Obama’s message is there needs to be a reduction of the tensions,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said after the summit in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

“There is no reason to risk any potential escalation, particularly when you have two of the world’s largest economies—China and Japan—associated with some of those disputes.”

Obama’s message came at the end of a three-day trip to Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia in a visit that underlined the expansion of US military and economic interests in Asia under last year’s so-called “pivot” from conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

On Monday, Philippine President Aquino said the United States had a strategic role to play in keeping the peace in Southeast Asia.

“It is especially vital to have the world’s largest national economy involved in the discussions considering the interconnectedness of our current milieu,” he told an audience that included Obama and other Asean leaders.

Everyone has a stake

Mr. Aquino’s call came after he openly rebuked host Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen for saying a consensus had been reached not to “internationalize” the territorial disputes.

China has long insisted that the disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks and opposed the involvement of outside parties, such as the United States. The Philippines is pushing for a multilateral solution.

Addressing the Asean-US leaders meeting, one of the side summits here, Mr. Aquino said the United States had a role to play in the discussions, especially in light of its touted “pivot” to the Pacific to check China’s growing military assertiveness.

“Each one of our nations has a stake in the stability of Southeast Asia. The United States understands this and, for this reason, has chosen to work with us to ensure the peace and continuous advancement of our region,” Mr. Aquino said.

He said US presence in the Asean summit “adds a special dimension to our regional discussions, particularly on issues that have far-reaching political and economic implications.”

“Our region is very diverse and its harmony can easily be disrupted by sheer political, military or economic might. Imbalance, as we know, may lead to instability,” he said.

“While we are all aware that the US does not take sides in disputes, they do have a strategic stake in the freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, and the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Mr. Aquino said.

Tiff with Hun Sen

He said territorial and maritime disputes should be settled peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law.

At a briefing for the Philippine media, Mr. Aquino said the United States, as the biggest economy, should not be left out of the talks considering its own stake in the region.

“We recognize that they also have a right to say their piece and to be active in advancing also their interests. We have long said that if it’s a multilateral problem, you can’t have a bilateral solution,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, at a separate Asean-Japan summit, Mr. Aquino made a terse interjection after Hun Sen said there was now an Asean consensus to keep negotiations within an “Asean-China framework.”

Mr. Aquino raised his hand to object, saying, “the Asean route is not the only route for us.” He also said the Philippines, as a sovereign state, had the right to defend its national interest.

Frosty ties

Relations between Cambodia and the Philippines turned frosty after the Asean foreign ministers meeting in July when they tussled over the language of a joint communiqué supposed to be issued at the end of the talks.

Cambodia rejected any mention of the disputes of individual Asean states with Beijing, particularly Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), which was then at the center of a maritime standoff between Manila and Beijing.

The deadlock prevented the issuance of a joint communiqué at that meeting, and critics said Cambodia was acting under pressure from China, which did not want any references to the sea disputes in the statement.

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, along with Taiwan, have overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea, which is believed to hold vast deposits of oil and gas. China claims virtually the whole body of water.

In April, a protracted standoff occurred between Chinese and Filipino forces over Panatag Shoal off Zambales.

Respect the EEZ

Speaking at the summit Tuesday, Mr. Aquino called on all parties to respect the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of coastal states, “irrespective of their size or naval power,” in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

The President called on all the claimant countries in Asean to “consider coming together to begin discussing the clarification of maritime claims and the resolution of their maritime disputes.” He said this should be done in accordance with international law, especially Unclos.

The Unclos sets the EEZ to up to 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from the coast in which states have the right to explore and exploit natural resources but allow freedom of navigation and overflight to others.

“At no time in the contemporary history of the South China Sea has clarification and delimitation of maritime areas become more urgent and imperative than they are now,” Mr. Aquino said.

Code of conduct

Mr. Aquino also emphasized that all parties to the proposed code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, when finalized, must be committed to its full implementation.

“As we in Asean embark on negotiating a code of conduct, we must make sure that its provisions are not only stronger, binding and credible, but that all parties to the COC must be fully committed to its implementation,” he said.

Mr. Aquino told reporters earlier that Asean had taken a significant step forward in the drafting of the code of conduct that would guide talks on the territorial disputes with China.

Aside from the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore have pushed their neighbors to “formalize the talks that will formulate the COC,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said he considered this a major development that contrasted with the slow progress of talks since the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or the DOC, a nonbinding pact entered into by the claimants in 2002.

In the Asean, the rule is not by majority, but by consensus, he said. “If even one objects, there’s no consensus.

Mr. Aquino likened the COC to an enabling law. “You know the Constitution is the fundamental law of the land, but it needs an enabling law. The COC is like that,” he said.

Sam Miguel
11-21-2012, 09:25 AM
Very foreign policy

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:23 pm | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

A couple of things are happening in our part of the world that say much about us. One is Barack Obama’s visit to Burma (Myanmar) and the other is our breaking up with Asean and going it alone in our approach to China.

First, Obama’s visit to Burma or, more to the point, his nonvisit to the Philippines: Several observers have made this out as a snub to us. The reasoning goes: Obama is hopping from Thailand to Burma to Cambodia, the last where a regional summit is taking place. Surely, he can drop by Manila, if only for a day, just to say hello to an old and loyal friend? It costs so little and pays so much. That he’s not doing it can only mean a snub.

Well, if it’s a snub, it’s not undeserved. The Fil-Ams were the odd man out among the immigrants in the United States, going for Mitt Romney over Obama, and not without racial, or indeed racist, overtones. What has he got to be grateful to Filipinos for?

But that’s presuming that’s how their thinking goes. Which only shows how our thinking goes. Taking things personally, particularly in foreign policy, is in fact not an American pastime, it is a Filipino one.

The specific principle, or cultural value, that underpins our foreign policy is “may pinagsamahan” and its corollary, “walang iwanan.” To begin with, our foreign policy rests only on our relationship with one country, the United States. Everything pivots around it. The principle of may pinagsamahan says we’ve gone through a great deal with America, we’ll remain together through thick and thin. And the principle of walang iwanan says we won’t abandon America and America won’t abandon us—mutual defense or magkasangga all the way.

Of course the sentiment did not just arise spontaneously in our minds, though it has taken on a self-perpetuating ferocity there; it was cultivated. Not least by the mythology of “I shall return,” which resonates with walang iwanan. And not least, too, by the mythology of Bataan and Corregidor, with its images of Filipinos and Americans fighting side by side to the last man, even though most of the Americans made off in ships in the night with Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña in tow, and the Filipinos ended up making the Long March.

Unfortunately for us, the sentiment is completely one-way. As seen in the cruel fate our veterans have suffered in the hands of their presumed comrades. Obama’s nonvisit to the Philippines is by no means surprising. At the very least, why should he bother with a people that can be counted upon to be there all the time, however shabbily they are treated, they may sulk for a while or indulge in tampo, but they’ll get over it fast? At the very most, why should he bother with a country that doesn’t really matter in Asian affairs, the current focus of America’s attention, which matters only as a repository, or suppository, of US bases in their various guises?

Which brings me to P-Noy’s disagreement with Asean.

On the face of it, it seems a very principled stand in the face of provocation by Cambodia. P-Noy took issue with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen when Sen announced that Asean had agreed not to “internationalize” its territorial disputes with China and would instead confine negotiations between the bloc and China. No such agreement had been reached, P-Noy expostulated, and he himself would continue to speak out on a global stage on it. “The Asean route is not the only route for us,” he declared.

That is all very well, but what exactly do we mean when we say we will continue to internationalize the dispute and speak on a global stage? If we mean that we will bring it to the attention of the United Nations and to the international adjudication bodies, then we are well within our rights. If we mean that we are going to make our beef known to, and appeal to the sense of justice of, the countries in wider Asia, Europe, and the other continents, then we are well within our senses. If we mean that we will continue to try to conscript America into our cause, specifically by getting it to speak loudly and unequivocally on our behalf, then we are well on our way to perdition.

The last in fact was what Sen was referring to when he said Asean had agreed not to internationalize the territorial dispute. It was a reference to our attempts to drag the United States into the fray. Inside looking out, or from our perspective, it’s Cambodia that looks like the odd man out, showing exceptionally slavish devotion and submission to its master, China. Outside looking in, or from the perspective of our Southeast Asian neighbors, it’s we who look like the bearded fool of the world, showing exceptionally embarrassing devotion and submission to our not-so-former colonial master, America.

What route apart from the Asean, the one group that speaks for our immediate neighborhood, the one organization that binds our part of the world, the one bloc several of whose members have a territorial dispute with China, do we have? Surely we can continue to press our viewpoint within Asean? Surely we can try to get the rest of Asean on our side? Surely we can stand in solidarity with Asean and present a united front against China?

I don’t know how effective that would be. I don’t know how far it will dissuade China from its territorial ambitions. But I do know it is better than magsumbong kay Sam, which will produce nothing and only cost us more—not least in territory for US servicemen to run around. I do know it will dissuade our neighbors from continuing to think of us as a nation that never gained independence, that remains wrapped and trapped in the mental cocoon of being “sandal sa pader.” I do know it will help to get our neighbors to treat us a little more seriously.

I do know it will help to make our foreign policy less foreign—to us.

Sam Miguel
11-23-2012, 10:46 AM
Delusional

By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:09 pm | Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

The association of Southeast Asian Nations’ summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ended in a shambles on Wednesday over how to check China’s aggressive pursuit of its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Following a clash between President Aquino and Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, an ally of China, over Cambodian claims that Asean had reached a consensus on not “internationalizing” the maritime disputes, the Philippines claimed to have gained the support of five Asian countries in its initiative to hold talks with three other Asean members—Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam—on Dec. 12 to try moving discussions forward on their respective territorial disputes that had been blocked by China with the aid of Cambodia.

With its initiative, the Philippines appeared to have broken ranks with its Asean partners on the contentious territorial issue that had overshadowed Asean’s economic and trade cooperation with China.

China refused to discuss the territorial disputes at the Asean summit, insisting stubbornly on its position that the talks be confined within the framework of Beijing and the 10-member Asean, to the exclusion of the United States, a Philippine ally, which President Aquino wanted to play an active role in conflict resolution in the region.

Mr. Aquino claimed at the end of the summit that the Philippines had gained the support of five Asian countries in seeking a peaceful resolution of the dispute outside the framework of the China-Asean nexus.

The Philippines had earlier pushed for serious talks on a code of conduct on conflict resolution with China, which expressed willingness to participate “at the proper time.” Newly appointed Cabinet Secretary Jose Almendras, who accompanied Mr. Aquino at the summit, claimed that the Philippine initiative had gained the support of five nations, not necessarily Asean members, but he did not identify them. He said getting the five nations to agree on the Philippine initiative was a “huge victory,” without explaining why. In the same breath, Almendras admitted that Asean had failed to get any firm commitment from China on the code of conduct. He also claimed that the exclusion of Hun Sen’s statement from the postsummit communiqué, to the effect that the summit had reached a consensus on not “internationalizing” the territorial rows, was in itself a “success” for the Philippines.

Before we can claim any success in diplomatic encounters, it has to be demonstrated, for such claims can create delusions that the region is on the way to peace when in reality it is sitting on an explosive fuse.

The wire services presented a contradictory view to official propaganda. For instance, reporting from Phnom Penh, Reuters said commentators had declared China a “clear summit winner.” It pointed out that Hun Sen helped China notch up a succession of diplomatic victories at the summit: “China stalled debates on a resolution of maritime disputes in the South China Sea,” and “rebutted attempts by Southeast Asian nations to start formal talks on the issue, and avoided any rebuke from [US President Barack] Obama over territorial disputes.”

According to the report, a closing statement by Hun Sen made no mention of the South China Sea, “another victory for China’s attempts to prevent multilateral talks on the dispute.” Using its powers as conference chair, Cambodia restricted debate over the issue of China’s maritime claims, dividing the group and infuriating the US ally, the Philippines, the report said.

The report also said the summit meetings came close to a breakdown when Hun Sen adopted a draft statement saying there was a consensus not to “internationalize” the dispute between Asean and China. The Philippines, “which sees its alliance with the US as a critical check to China’s claims at a time when Washington is shifting its military focus back to Asia, made a formal protest to Cambodia and succeeded in having the clause removed from the final statement,” the report said.

But this opened a chance for China to poke fun at the Philippines’ assertion that there had been no consensus. China pointed out that eight out of 10 Asean leaders had agreed not to internationalize the dispute, meaning, according to Qin Gang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, there was a consensus.

“I suggest that people, when attending the East Asian summit, have to be very good at mathematics,” he said. “That’s 10 minus 2, so which is bigger?”

At the summit, Obama avoided making clear commitments to give military support to allies threatened by aggressive Chinese intrusions into disputed territories. The summit results proved that Asean remains a weak framework to counter China’s penetration in disputed territories.

* * *

APOLOGIES

In my column “Growth didn’t trickle down” (5/7/12), I inadvertently failed to acknowledge the BusinessWorld articles “Asia has to ‘constitute its own growth pull’—Sachs” by Diane Claire J. Jiao and “Investments hurdle tagged” by Judy T. Gulane. The articles were incorporated into my column on the Asian Development Bank Manila conference on the economic performance of the Philippines during the past decade without attribution to sources in my desire to present a comprehensive commentary on the Philippine economic outlook. During the conference, I was swamped by a flurry of news stories that caused me to neglect acknowledging sources. This was my fault. For this oversight, I offer my sincere apologies to my colleagues in the media. I never had the slightest intention to deny the authors of the articles credit for their praiseworthy work. I’ve always found BusinessWorld a credible and trustworthy source of media information.

Sam Miguel
11-23-2012, 11:33 AM
Loren supports P-Noy's Asean call on sea row

By Christina Mendez

(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 22, 2012 - 6:38pm

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Loren Legarda has joined the call of President Aquino in seeking a united stand on the territorial problems with China among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN).

Legarda noted that the leaders of ASEAN, in April 2012, adopted the “Phnom Penh Declaration on ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny”.

The declaration underscored the commitment of ASEAN members to uphold the collective commitments reflected in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, and to move for the eventual realization of a regional code of conduct (COC).

“ASEAN needs to be consistent with its declarations,” said Legarda, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“Clearly, UNCLOS was not considered in isolation of the proposed solutions under this Declaration. I do note that the Leaders have decided to seek early talks with China on a regional code of conduct,” she added.

Legarda said it would be interesting to find out if the member countries have at least agreed on an ASEAN position on its key elements and features before they initiate discussions with China.

“Maritime security and cooperation in ensuring freedom of navigation, in combating piracy, and in maintaining peace and stability in the region must be strengthened. ASEAN is in a unique and critical position to help preserve peace in the region by effectively shepherding the process of producing a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” Legarda said.

Legarda is concerned over the ASEAN’s failure to once again come up with a united stand on how to handle the territorial disputes between China and four of its members – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“We recognize that ASEAN unity is vital in addressing the challenges facing the region today, but certainly not at the expense of compromising our national interest,” Legarda said.

“ASEAN unity and the promotion of each member’s national interest are complementary goals that cannot be pursued in isolation of the other,” she said.

The senator’s reaction came on the heels of the statement of the chairman of the 21st ASEAN Summit that ASEAN leaders had agreed not to “internationalize” the disputes and would confine negotiations to those between the bloc and China.

Legarda said President Aquino was right when he moved to register its objection to the chairman’s view that “a consensus on putting the discussions within an ASEAN-China framework had been reached.”

“I welcome President Aquino’s unfettered resolve to remind his fellow leaders to achieve unity in ASEAN’s stand and approach in handling disputes with China over conflicting claims to the strategically vital West Philippine Sea,” Legarda added.

“I support the President’s call for constructive dialogue and for a reaffirmation of respect for international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in resolving the disputes,” she said.

Sam Miguel
11-23-2012, 11:34 AM
Phl hosting 4-party talks on sea row

By Pia Lee-Brago

(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 22, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - At the initiative of the Philippines, four claimants to territories in the West Philippine Sea will meet in Manila on Dec. 12 to explore how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can resolve the dispute among members.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday President Aquino had pushed the vice ministerial level talks among Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

“We did move forward an initiative when we said that we will endeavor to get the claimant states together and see how we could have a discussion in terms of how to address the issue,” he said.

“And I am happy to say that we have been successful in doing that. So there will be a beginning of four-party talks in Manila starting Dec. 12.”

Speaking to reporters, Del Rosario said the Philippines has been doing its best to keep the discussion within ASEAN and recommended the meeting as early as last year.

“But a good scenario is whether we can on a multilateral basis among the four of us discuss issues that confront the four claimants,” he said.

“If we can, for example, discuss the limitations and solutions to areas where we have disputes with each other, that certainly would be a good result of that initiative.”

Del Rosario said Aquino called on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to withdraw their three vessels from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal during the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“The President called on our northern neighbor to respect our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and withdraw their vessels which remain in Bajo de Masinloc,” he said.

“In accordance with UNCLOS and the DOC, the President called on all parties to respect the EEZ and continental shelf of all coastal states irrespective of their size or naval power.”

During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Phnom Penh, Aquino raised his hand and interrupted a concluding speech of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to clarify that the Philippines disagreed with what was supposed to be a joint regional statement on relations with China.

Hun Sen acknowledged Aquino’s statement, which effectively meant that ASEAN again failed to reach a consensus on maritime territorial disputes with China.

– With Aurea Calica

Sam Miguel
11-28-2012, 08:47 AM
More thoughts on ASEAN integration and democracy

By: Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.

November 26, 2012 4:01 PM

I had a small part in the coming dialogue hosted by DODAI (that’s for 3rd Dialogue on Democracy and ASEAN Integration, with the theme of "Democracy and Governance in ASEAN: Experiences, Challenges and Prospects") where I was asked my views on a variety of issues. I regret not being able to address these issues in person because I think my replies will more likely excite disagreement or discussion than acquiescence, but here goes.

1. What does freedom of speech/expression mean?

Freedom of speech and expression is just what it says, a freedom without limit to speak or express in some other fashion whatever an individual wants, without prior restraint exercised by the state or any other person than the one who seeks to speak or express herself. In short, the only restraint I can imagine as permissible is self-restraint provided it is not induced by fear of harm from the state or another person. It may be induced by good taste, no fading in its influence, tact, conscience or belief secular or religious. Speech takes the form of words of course but expression may issue in any form—sound, color, words, gestures, whatever conveys a message of idea or feeling. It may use any medium, paper, light and sound, electric impulses, whatever. There are no limits and there never were limits to this freedom. But there are and there should be consequences; even of some severity if they cause harm to others who do not owe the speaker any account of himself. No court should nor could stop a man from falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater but he will be prosecuted for any harm or damage caused. No man can be prevented from scrawling the schedule of transports and posting them on a wall, thereby alerting the enemy to critical military movements but he must be prepared to face a firing squad as a consequence. There are no limits in a democratic or any other society except those imposed by force, such as isolation in a windowless cell or the ultimate censorship of a bullet in the back of the head. An individual is free to say anything however derogatory of the state or a private individual but, if there is a law, he could be prosecuted for sedition or libel after he has spoken but never before. A king may move a man but not his conscience, said the knight to the leper king of Jerusalem. Its provenance is a law of Edward II.

2. Freedom of speech and expression is important in itself because it is an essential part of what it is to be human.

It is not important for its possible contribution to democratic discourse. The invectives of a hippie are as important, at least to him about what he thinks of society, as the more carefully articulated views of a Founding Father are important to his desire to form a more perfect union. The biggest cost of denying this freedom is what it does the person who is denied it: it amputates an essential part of his human being and human flourishing. Rarely do citizens, and even less officials, have anything to say that is important in advancing the safety, security or progress of societies; more often than not what they have to say is trivial or of interest only to their small circle of friends or co-conspirators. To be sure, there are occasions when what people have to say about how their societies should be run, to what better purposes—such as their own pressing needs—society’s resources might be devoted, what are the wrongs that should be righted and what rights should be upheld and enforced. But the greater part of the value of these utterances pertains to the dignity they impart to the individual who makes them than to the uses they may have for society. And that is why freedom of speech and expression is paramount; why it should never be restrained; though were it causes hurt or damage it should as unfailingly be punished.

3. What does political participation mean?

Political participation means the freedom to affect, by means that cause no physical harm to others though they may occasion distress to them, the direction of political affairs, the manner that societies are governed and the power to do it to with an effect proportioned to importance to himself of the purpose for which a person politically participates, without having to weigh the importance, if any, that others may assign to that purpose. In short, it is every man politically participating for himself and let the devil take the hindmost.

4. Political participation is important if you fully realize yourself through it.

If one foregoes it one ceases to be a human actor in society and becomes an object of the actions of others. To be sure, a person’s rights in this regard and others are not sustained by their continuous exercise and lost by inanition for any length of time. In his inaction and even self-isolation, his rights must still be protected even if he diminishes himself in relation to the active members of society. This self-demotion by withdrawal from politics can never be permanent, as some ASEAN despotism believe. It is instantly rescinded the moment an individual decides that he will be active again. It is a right and a dignity that may be weakened by inanition but never lost by desuetude. It inheres in the individual and doesn’t even cease upon his death for he retains command, by law, over the disposal of his remains.

5. The forms of political participation are more than we can hope to enumerate exhaustively. And they are not delimited even by the good taste not to run naked around a bronze statue with the physical endowments the runner does not possess. The forms are not limited even by reasonable estimates of their probability of success or likelihood of failure. They are just what people do and should be allowed to do to affect their environments in the way they hope to.

6. Under no conditions should political participation be limited, though I know that there is a strong argument now against hate speech which the US Supreme Court has refused to curtail however hurtful it can be. There can be no conditions on political participation; it should not be denied even convicted criminals who should be encouraged to exercise it under conditions of of incarceration that they should have a voice in deciding. The right against cruel and unusual punishments precisely comes into play when all other rights may have ceased. But there must be consequences when political participation causes harm to another or damage to property or raises the risk of substantive and imminent harm to society.

7. My experiences as a journalist show that these freedoms can be exercised with much help and hardly any harm to others or to society.

My experiences as a subject of journalism have occasionally provoked comments from me, indicative of my total lack of concern for the killings of journalists. But that is just hyperbole. I oppose killing blackmailing journalists as much as I oppose killing a car thief. It is disproportional and I was one of the main movers of the abolition of the death penalty.

8. Journalists can play a vital role in promoting democracy in Southeast Asia or anywhere in the world where dictatorships suppress the aspiration for it or where democratically elected governments thwart is proper purposes.

Journalists can do this by not going along with watered-down versions of democracy and calling them nascent. No journalist should describe as democratic a polity that gives rather than acknowledges the right of the people to vote for what or whomever they choose, and who may choose with as much success of electing them candidates outside the government slate. That is not democratic and to call it burgeoning democracy is mental dishonesty and possibly financial as well for it happens with journalists enjoying the hospital from host dictatorships. Democracy has been defined so precisely it has probably been reduced to a mathematical equation somewhere. In that respect it is unmistakable unlike pornography which Justice Potter Steward was reduced to confessing he could not define but he would know it when he saw it.

9. ASEAN does not seek to build a community of caring and sharing societies, along with a single market and production base.

At best, a member hopes to live at peace with its neighbors because it can never hope to subjugate them nor take their riches with impunity though it must surely wish it could, given the character of most of its regimes and the composition of their ruling classes. Democracy might however introduce a popular element to feasible ASEAN aspirations such as a kind of common market by making sure that no government gives away more than its people are prepared to do without; such as jobs assigned to one country like cow’s milk to Holstein and goat cheese to Portugal. Democracy would lessen the risk of this happening though it will probably lessen the likelihood of achieving ASEAN aims as well. But then we must reconsider whether ASEAN is a precursor of a common market or just the new name of a failed or obsolete anti-communist military alliance. I think, at best, ASEAN means giving a communal name to the necessity of neighboring weak countries having to live at peace with each other because none of them can afford a war with any of the others.

Sam Miguel
12-13-2012, 08:27 AM
Lone Asean voice taking on China

By Greg Torode

6:23 am | Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Placing consensus above all, it is fair to say that Asean leaders are generally not known for their displays of emotion or passion.

Yet, in a crucial closed-door meeting in July, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario tried to tap those dormant qualities as he tried to rally his peers to stand up to China over the South China Sea.

Trying, in the words of one observer, “to bloody well wake them up,” Del Rosario quoted the famous lines from German theologian Martin Niemöller of the perils of doing nothing in the face of mounting tyranny. Describing how the Nazis, unopposed, first came for the communists and then the trade unionists, Niemöller said: “Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Rarely has Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) heard such language within its staterooms. “It was classic Del Rosario,” said one Asean envoy. “He’s not afraid to appeal to our better selves … and he’s not afraid to stand up and be counted when it comes to the South China Sea.”

That meeting ended in unprecedented rancor as the 10 Southeast Asian foreign ministers failed to produce an annual communique for the first time in the grouping’s 45-year history. Meeting host Cambodia stood accused of doing Beijing’s bidding in shutting down debate over how to capture in the document regional concern over the South China Sea.

When Asean leaders met in Phnom Penh last month, Philippine President Benigno Aquino continued his foreign secretary’s theme. While he contradicted Cambodia’s public claims of an Asean deal—hailed by Beijing—not to “internationalize” the South China Sea dispute, he told his peers to stand united, according to one meeting transcript.

“If you don’t stand up when your neighbor’s rights are violated, then you set the stage for the violation of your own rights,” Aquino said.

This time Manila was more successful. With discreet backing from some of the grouping’s bigger players, including Indonesia and Vietnam, the claimed Cambodian deal never made it to the official closing statement.

But the broader issue of Asean’s push to start formal negotiations with China on a binding code of conduct to govern intensifying tensions across the South China Sea until territorial disputes can be solved remains, at best, a work in progress.

Chinese officials have made increasingly clear in recent weeks that they are wary of the influence of “outside powers,” particularly the United States and Japan, and resent the portrayal of the code as somehow being a means to contain and/or control China. Hopes that negotiations could start early in 2013 now appear to be in vain.

Sitting in his office—part of a complex on Manila’s Roxas Boulevard that overlooks the South China Sea—the courtly 73-year-old Del Rosario sounds frustrated yet sanguine as he reviews a bruising year of diplomacy at the forefront of the strategic shifts now upsetting the region.

Ultimately, he stresses, he wants to return Sino-Philippine relations to a previously agreed status quo where territorial disputes were kept to the side of a relationship that flourished across trade, social and political fronts—something he believes would ultimately serve China’s broader desires for a stable region.

“If there is a message I want to get across, that’s it,” he says.

Returning to that point will be no easy task, he acknowledges. The dispute over Scarborough Shoal—known in China as Huangyan Island or as Panatag Shoal to the Philippines—is now the focus of the relationship.

With Beijing still deriding “provocations” after a Philippine naval ship challenged Chinese fishermen early this year, Fu Ying, the vice minister for foreign affairs, recently told him that Beijing intended to keep Coast Guard-type vessels at the shoal permanently.

China has also used ropes to block access to the interior of the shoal, which falls within its controversial nine-dash line claim to virtually all of the South China Sea.

In some 36 rounds of consultations—“I’ve been counting them,” Del Rosario says—Beijing has also detailed in no uncertain terms what it expects from Manila. No “internationalization” means bilateral talks only, and nothing conducted via Asean, the United Nations or “outside partners”—particularly the Philippines’ long-term security ally, the United States.

The Aquino administration is clearly rejecting Beijing’s prescription. It is also renewing its strategic relationships, seeking to buttress its tiny and overstretched armed forces. US ships, submarines and military aircraft are suddenly visiting Philippines’ ports and airfields once again while discreet talks are also under way with Japan to acquire a fleet of state-of-the-art Coast Guard cutters. It is also working more closely with Indonesia and fellow South China Sea claimant Vietnam.

As eloquent as he can be at times, Del Rosario does not mince words when he talks about Beijing’s demands. “No sovereign country wants to be dictated to,” he says. “China is endeavoring to dictate to us how we should be behaving and what we should be doing. We feel that we ought to be able to use all the tools in the peaceful pursuit of resolution to [disputes] that is in accordance with our national interests.”

Those “tools” include a three-track approach by Manila—talks with Asean and international partners, bilateral diplomacy with Beijing and research into taking unilateral legal action to formally dispute China’s claim under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The latter, some analysts believe, would risk Beijing’s wrath, and extensive economic and diplomatic retaliation would be expected.

Del Rosario insists, however, that the long-term goal must be a “durable” legal and political solution, rather than brittle case-by-case efforts that do not tackle the broader issues. “Ultimately, I’m trying to be constructive.”

He says an effective Asean serves Chinese and US interests long-term and insists the organization remains strong. He dismisses the Phnom Penh tensions as “like a family disagreement … eventually you come together and emerge stronger.”

The challenges, of course, mean he occupies one of the hottest seats in regional diplomacy. While the New York-educated businessman and former ambassador to Washington is highly respected in the United States, he cuts a more controversial figure at home and in Beijing.

Some Filipino businessmen have questioned his tactics toward dealing with China while Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who is running a back channel to Beijing, has said Del Rosario has mishandled formal negotiations over Scarborough.

Del Rosario has, however, denied reports he will resign, and he apparently has Aquino’s backing.

Reports in China’s state media this week show just how tough a road lies ahead. In news stories outlining last week’s appointment to Beijing of new Philippine Ambassador Erlinda Basilio, mainland analysts and scholars made it clear that Beijing was in no mood to see Manila “stirring up trouble.”

Through it all, Del Rosario says he remains “basically an optimist.” While he ponders whether Beijing’s new leaders will be able to resist the demands of an assertive and nationalistic public, he says: “I’m hoping that China will recognize that being a responsible member of the international community would be a preferable choice to muscle.”

Reprinted from the South China Morning Post

Sam Miguel
01-15-2013, 10:45 AM
Brunei to seek S. China Sea code of conduct

Agence France-Presse

9:18 pm | Monday, January 14th, 2013

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei—Brunei will pursue a binding code of conduct among competing South China Sea claimants as a top priority during its Asean chairmanship, officials said Monday.

The tiny, oil-rich Muslim sultanate has assumed the chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations for 2013 at a time when tension over sweeping Chinese claims to the sea have rattled the region.

“Brunei sees this as a key threat to regional security and would like to resolve the issue through dialogue with all claimants, including China,” said a foreign ministry official, who declined to be named.

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, also have claims to parts of what the Philippines calls West Philippine Sea, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in fossil fuels.

Simmering tensions over the issue have risen in the past two years, with the Philippines and Vietnam accusing China of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims.

Cambodia’s 2012 ASEAN chairmanship was marked by sharp regional discord over the affair.

The rancor led to unprecedented infighting at an Asean foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh in July, which ended for the first time in the bloc’s 45-year history without a joint communique.

As chair, Cambodia—a close China ally—was accused of resisting efforts by the Philippines and Vietnam to take a more aggressive position against the Chinese.

Efforts to secure a legally binding code of conduct involving Asean and China have floundered for years amid Beijing’s insistence on handling disputes bilaterally with individual countries, while Asean wants to speak as a group.

China and Asean signed a broad declaration in 2002 pledging the parties would handle disputes peacefully and not take actions that threaten peace and stability.

During an Asean summit in November, the organization called on China to get serious in working toward a binding code of conduct.

Brunei will host Asean leader summits in April and October.

Sam Miguel
07-03-2013, 08:33 AM
Legacy

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:48 pm | Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

I loved that picture of the Asean foreign ministers clasping one another’s hands in solidarity that came out last weekend. The occasion was their meeting in Brunei last week. The people in the picture included Malaysia’s Anifah Aman, the Philippines’ Albert del Rosario, Singapore’s Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, Thailand’s Surapong Tovichakchaikul and Vietnam’s Pham Binh Minh.

I loved the fact that the Kampuchean foreign minister was not there. During the last Asean summit held in Kampuchea, the host country proved little more than China’s mouthpiece, taking the Chinese position that any territorial dispute between China and any of the Asean countries should be resolved only through bilateral talks and not through a multilateral one (that is, by Asean negotiating with, or confronting, China, as a bloc). The Brunei meeting refuted that position.

I loved it that there was no American official hovering in the background or in the sidelines to spoil the view.

I loved it that the Asean representatives expressed themselves forcefully on the issue, led expectedly by Del Rosario. Del Rosario warned that China was ratcheting up its militarization of the region and that its “destabilizing actions” posed a serious threat to it. He took exception to China’s People’s Daily warning of a “counterstrike” against the Philippines if it should continue to embark on a path of confrontation, saying, “The statement is an irresponsible one. We condemn any threats of use of force.”

He said the Philippines would continue to pursue legal and diplomatic avenues to settle its row with China. Right now, it’s in talks with the other Asean countries to forge a Code of Conduct governing disputes, which China has agreed, or been forced, to consider, a departure from its previous insistence on bilateral negotiations.

The coming together of the Asean is a show of force in the best way that shows of force can be shown, which is as a moral force. At least it is the best way to meet China’s expansionism in that it entails the least compromises, the least repercussions, the least tradeoffs, particularly one where the loss offsets the gain.

China’s expansionism is real and obdurate. You recognize a rising power drifting toward an imperialist path when it starts fencing off a presumed backyard, however that backyard includes territories belonging to other countries. You recognize a rising power embarking on an imperialist path when it starts asserting a Monroe Doctrine, or variations thereof, officially or unofficially, in the name of protecting itself.

China’s expansionism is real and obdurate, but it cannot be met in a non-calibrated way, a non-nuanced way, a gung-ho way. The latter is what the military alliance with the United States (and Japan) to protect our claim in the Spratlys is. The latter is what offering the United States indefinite—read permanent—access to our bases is.

There is no lack of example from art and life, from history and action movie, of a community depending on, or securing the services of, a savior, only to see that savior turn on it after the savior has chased the menace away. The savior turned predator, or the blessing turned into a curse, is one of the themes of the westerns, ironically—for us—a favorite genre of the old generation, the Cold War generation. That’s the one about a terrorized town hiring a marshal or gunfighter to fight off the bad guys only to have that marshal or gunfighter take over and oppress the town afterward.

The only difference in our case being that the marshal or gunfighter is not unknown to us, he is a well-known quantity. He is the old kingpin who grabbed our town a long time ago, whom we kicked out for being greedy and abusive. We know that the Americans seized this country from our revolutionaries, we know that we fought for the Americans during the Japanese Occupation, we know they repaid those who did by not recognizing them. And we want to bring them back as our savior?

From our own end, or through our own folly, we know that to this day we are still struggling to be independent not just in body but in mind. We know that to this day the “global outlook” we pride ourselves in having is nothing more or less than the same “colonial mentality” we’ve always had, “global” meaning for us basketball, an Americanized first name, and a heartland called America. We know we’ve just begun to emerge from this mental, psychological, and moral cocoon after we dumped the US bases, seeing for the first time where we are, which is in Asia, seeing for the first time what we are, which is Asians. And we want to plunge right back into the Dark Ages?

China has to be stopped. But we cannot afford to do it by jumping from the frying pan into the fire. P-Noy has repeatedly said that the last three years of his term will be devoted to leaving a lasting legacy to this country. He has been doing very well all this time, pushing back corruption farther than any of his predecessors has done, lifting the economy far higher than any of his predecessors has done, firing up the people’s imagination more frenziedly than any of his predecessors has done. But this tack of dealing with China threatens to undo a good deal of it.

The regression to the time of “special relations,” a long period in our history that from hindsight gives supremely ironic meanings to the word “special”—it was special only in the one-sidedness of the mutuality—is powerful enough to displace the accomplishments. Heaven forbid that at the end of the day, or long after P-Noy has gone, he will be remembered as the president who pushed us forward in body farther than we had hoped but pulled us back in spirit farther than we had expected.

That can’t be such a great legacy.

Sam Miguel
07-04-2013, 02:31 PM
Asean central

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:36 am | Thursday, July 4th, 2013

What a difference a year—or, more to the point, a new host—makes. At around this time last year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations reeled from an unexpected scandal: the failure for the first time to issue a joint communiqué after a leaders’ summit. China had pressured host Cambodia, its close ally, not to allow any mention of the South China Sea disputes in the traditional closing statement; both the Philippines and Vietnam vigorously objected, but in the end Cambodia chose to side, not with its Asean partners, but with China.

Chinese overreach had immediate regional consequences. Beijing’s aggressive conduct in the South China Sea attracted renewed international attention. Cambodia felt the urgent need to repair its relations with neighboring Vietnam, one of the claimant countries. Not least, the largest Asean member, Indonesia, began a form of shuttle diplomacy, with support from Singapore, to try to repair the unexpected damage to Asean unity.

This Indonesian initiative, it became clear over the weekend, during the Asean summit hosted by Brunei, has effectively strengthened Asean’s resolve to commit China to a binding “code of conduct,” one which will govern maritime disputes as well as maritime cooperation in the region.

“We have to have the code of conduct,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in Bandar Seri Begawan. “Otherwise, uncertainty will prevail.”

With new Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi taking part in Asean exchanges for the first time, the association reached an agreement with Beijing to begin official consultations on the code of conduct, to lead to formal talks in September.

The language of the communiqué is worth a close read. The 90th paragraph of a 98-paragraph communiqué reads in full: “We discussed the situation and recent developments in the South China Sea. In this regard, we appreciated the exchange of views on the issues including initiatives and approaches to enhance trust, confidence and dialogue, and address incidents in the South China Sea. We also noted suggestions for a hotline of communication, as well as search and rescue of persons and vessels in distress. We further reaffirmed the importance of peace, stability, and maritime security in the region. We underscored the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea, and the ASEAN-China Joint Statement on the 10th Anniversary of the DOC. In this regard, we reaffirmed the collective commitments under the DOC to ensuring the resolution of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities.”

This is exactly the Philippine position, and it is good to see it restated in an official Asean statement. Even more important for resolving regional tensions is the last sentence of the next paragraph: “Taking into account the importance of the 10th anniversary of the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership in 2013, we look forward to the formal consultations between ASEAN and China at the SOM [Senior Officials’ Meeting] level on the COC [Code of Conduct] with an aim to reach an early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which will serve to enhance peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”

It may be that Cambodia has realized that its membership in the Asean loses much of its potency if it is perceived as a mere Chinese proxy; it may be that Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei has put his entire weight behind the Indonesian initiative; it may be that Chinese assertiveness in advancing its claims to almost the entire South China Sea, and the refusal of both the Philippines and Vietnam to back down, has had the effect of strengthening Asean conviction about its “centrality in the evolving regional architecture”—in the words of the communiqué.

Whatever the reason, China has finally heard from Asean again on the vexing issue of competing maritime claims in the South China Sea. That is no small thing.

Sam Miguel
10-31-2013, 08:41 AM
PH, Indonesia, Malaysia seal fisheries pact covering Sulu-Celebes Sea

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

INQUIRER.net

12:37 am | Thursday, October 31st, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia on Wednesday signed a fisheries management agreement in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, in a bid to promote sustainable production in the Sulu-Celebes Sea.

Signed by the countries’ respective agriculture and fisheries agencies, the Regional Strategic Action Program aims to protect the Sulu-Celebes Sea which is within the jurisdiction of the three nations and among the 200 most critical eco-regions in the world.

Signatories to the commitment were Dr. Sudirman Sa’ad, Director General of Marine, Coast and Small Islands, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) from Indonesia; Datuk Ujang Sulanim, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry Sabah from Malaysia; and Atty. Asis G. Perez, Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) from the Philippines.

“Much support is still needed to implement the regional program ranging from funding support to informed local participation and action,” said Datuk Rayner Stuel Galid, current Chair of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Sub-Committee on Sustainable Fisheries.

He applauded the program which takes on “the challenging task to undertake marine biodiversity conservation in the Sulu-Celebes Sea.”

The signing of the program was the culmination of a two-year process that involved consultations with stakeholders, experts and agencies. It is based on common problems besetting the area and their potential impact on the 40 million people residing in the region.

The Sulu-Celebes Sea is in the region that harbors the highest marine biodiversity among the world’s oceans. It has an annual potential fish yield of 675,380 metric tons which provides food for the region.

However, recent studies showed that overfishing has resulted in the decline of fish size and catch.

“The decline in fishery resources, in addition to the fast growth of the population, greatly affects the economic situation of these fishing communities,” a joint statement on the program said.

The program will focus on the conservation of small fishes such as sardines, long-jawed mackerel, big-eye and round scads, and frigate mackerel which are most abundant in the area.

“By focusing our conservation plan on small pelagic fisheries, we ensure that the welfare of economically marginalized communities is being taken care of. Small pelagic fishes like sardines, scads and mackerel do not only provide source of income to fishers but they are also the more affordable protein source for lower income population in the region,” United Nations Office for Special Services regional project manager Romeo Trono said.