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Del Rosario laments draft ASEAN statement on sea row

Chinese structures and buildings on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are seen 18 kilometers (11 miles) away from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea Friday, April 21, 2017. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials flew to Thitu Island Friday to assert the country's claim to the heartland of a disputed area where China is believed to have added missiles on man-made islands. The South China Sea issue is expected to be discussed in the 20th ASEAN Summit of Leaders next week. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who led the Philippines in filing an arbitration case against China, expressed disappointment over the reported draft of a communique that will be issued at the end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila.

A draft of the "chairman's statement" did not mention the arbitration decision issued by a United Nations-backed tribunal last year that invalidates China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, according to a report by the Associated Press.

"We shared the serious concerns expressed by some leaders over recent developments and escalation of activities in the area which may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region," the draft statement said.

READ: ASEAN leaders likely to go soft on sea feud in Manila summit

Asked to comment on the draft statement's treatment of the South China Sea developments, Del Rosario said that there is a minimum expectation of positive leadership to be attributed to President Rodrigo Duterte's chairmanship of the 10-nation regional bloc.

"The draft of the Chairman's Statement is deeply disappointing and, if not revisited, would manifest an absence of the desired leadership," Del Rosario said in a statement released Wednesday.

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Del Rosario has been urging the government to assert effective leadership as this year's ASEAN chair by bringing up the arbitral tribunal ruling during the discussion of the maritime dispute.

In a forum earlier this week, Del Rosario said that the country must speak out and work with its Southeast Asian neighbors to stand in protest.

"We cannot wait for a ‘better time’ to come—we must create that time ourselves lest that opportunity be lost forever," Del Rosario said.

The former Secretary of Foreign Affairs added that the arbitral award should be an integral part of the Code of Conduct being finalized.

"Moreover, we must not accept the position that China's South China Sea build-up is a fait accompli that renders us helpless," Del Rosario said in a forum last Tuesday.

RELATED: ASEAN countries urged to draft sea code, pressure China

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