MANILA, Philippines - The time is “ripe” for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to have a legally binding code of conduct to prevent occupation of disputed and non-disputed areas in West Philippine Sea and Panatag Shoal.
In a press briefing at Malacañang, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said “China has said that they will only discuss this with ASEAN when the time is ripe.”
“We are hoping that the time is ripe now for such discussion because this actually would be very good for the region, and will put peace and stability and freedom of navigation in the area that we are talking about,” Hernandez said.
He announced that President Aquino would attend the 22nd ASEAN leaders’ summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on April 24 and 25.
The summit’s theme for this year is “Our People, Our Future Together,” emphasizing the importance of ASEAN citizens in realizing the vision of an ASEAN community by 2015.
“As to the DOC (Declaration on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea), I think there is really a need to implement that because some of the provisions that were laid out in that document have not been fully implemented,” Hernandez said.
“We are talking about provisions like not inhabiting islands in the West Philippine Sea, which some countries have newly inhabited. So those are the things that have to be discussed and decisions have to be made for the full implementation of the DOC,” he said.
Hernandez cited the intrusions in the Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag or Scarborough Shoal) by the Chinese.
“That should not be the case. That is a violation of the provisions of the DOC. What we need to do is to be able to implement those provisions to the full so that peace and stability in the region can be undertaken.”
He said the Philippines would continue to advocate maritime security and cooperation, push for the full and effective implementation of the DOC as well as the early conclusion of a substantive and legally binding code of conduct, and review the ASEAN Charter to streamline the work and meetings of ASEAN.
Hernandez said they are hopeful that negotiations on the code of conduct would start soon for the interest of all parties concerned.
“I think ASEAN is ready to push this with China so that a substantive and legally binding Code of Conduct would be crafted as soon as possible,” Hernandez said.
Chinese occupation of the Panatag Shoal started on April 10, 2012, when surveillance vessels from Beijing barred the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese poachers who had illegally harvested endangered marine species in the shoal.
Three Chinese vessels have remained in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal over a year after Beijing intruded into the Philippine-owned area.
Philippine officials want the Panatag incident tackled in ASEAN and included in the documents of the regional grouping because it is within the country’s exclusive economic zone and has not been considered a disputed area until the Chinese adopted a nine-dash-line policy, claiming the whole of the West Philippine Sea and encroaching on other countries’ territories.
Hernandez said it is up to ASEAN senior ministers to come up with an agreement on the code of conduct that would be shown and discussed with the Chinese.
No effect on UN case
Hernandez said the Philippine efforts to have a legally binding code of conduct would not affect arbitral proceedings it initiated against China under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to clarify its maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea. – Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude
“We brought China to an arbitral tribunal last Jan. 22nd to challenge China’s excessive claim – which they call the ‘nine-dash line’ – which, for us, is not only excessive but something that is contrary to international law, specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
“We were able to appoint our judge and, about several weeks ago, the president of ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) was also able to appoint another judge for the panel. – Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude