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  1. #1

    Why there was no ASEAN Joint Communique

    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.
    www.Gameface.ph: Changing The Face of The Game!

  2. #2
    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 [into] 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.

    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

  3. #3
    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.

  4. #4
    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)

  5. #5
    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.

  6. #6
    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.

  7. #7
    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.

  8. #8
    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.

  9. #9
    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.

  10. #10
    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.


 
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