Philippines needs to exercise 'utmost vigilance' in sea code talks with China — Del Rosario
"To us, it means that we will need to exercise utmost vigilance in ensuring that the COC is not utilized by Beijing for the purpose of undermining the award in the South China Sea arbitration," former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
US DoD, File
Philippines needs to exercise 'utmost vigilance' in sea code talks with China — Del Rosario
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - October 28, 2019 - 3:24pm

MANILA, Philippines — While China had declared that it wants to go ahead with the signing of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, the Philippines must exercise vigilance in the negotiations.

Being one of the claimant states, the Philippines had also taken over the role of country coordinator for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China while negotiations for the code are ongoing.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who led the Philippines in its arbitration against China, noticed that China appears to be adopting a "delaying" strategy in the COC.

Beijing seems to be giving itself time to complete its unlawful expansion and militarization strategy in the South China Sea, according to the former top diplomat.

"To us, it means that we will need to exercise utmost vigilance in ensuring that the COC is not utilized by Beijing for the purpose of undermining the award in the South China Sea arbitration, which is now an integral part of international law and with which China is obligated to comply as a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," Del Rosario said at a forum organized by Stratbase ADR Institute in Makati City.

Consult Vietnam

The former DFA chief also suggested that the Philippines consult with Vietnam on possible courses of action on the matter. Three other ASEAN member states have claims over the South China Sea — Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

"Clearly, it would be a constructive move to consult with Vietnam to give us an opportunity to share and appreciate each other's views which could lead to an agreed plan of action that is beneficial not only to both countries but to others as well," Del Rosario said.

Hanoi had previously specified banning any new Air Defense Identification Zone and clarifying maritime entitlements in accordance with international law on the COC negotiations.

Vietnam had also suggested blocking the proposal of China to ban military drills in the South China Sea with non-regional powers unless all signatories agree.

Quoting Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, Del Rosario said: "Vietnam endeavors to enhance the cooperation and complementarity between the council and regional organizations, particularly in conflict prevention and sustainable peace efforts."

Hanoi will take over the chairmanship of the ASEAN in 2020.

According to Del Rosario, an ASEAN consensus on Vietnam's specific positions would show that the 10-member regional bloc has a solid body willing to uphold centrality and will not allow itself to be bullied and bribed.

Southeast Asian countries are expected to tackle the COC in the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Thailand, which President Rodrigo Duterte will attend.

"It's unavoidable," Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said when asked if the COC will be discussed in the biannual summit.

ALBERT DEL ROSARIO ASEAN CHINA PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES SOUTH CHINA SEA VIETNAM WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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