LEADERS of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have committed to enhance cooperation for full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and backed the Philippines’ filing of a “memorial” against China’s nine-dash line territorial rule over contested islands in the Spratlys.
According to Malacañang, the leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation for the full and effective implementation of the declaration in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or Unclos.
They also called on all parties to “exercise self-restraint and non-use of force, as well as refrain from taking actions that would further escalate tension and to work toward an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as reflected in the Asean’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea.”
On the filing of the “memorial” or memorandum before the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (Itlos), Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Monday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd won the support of his counterparts.
“During the Plenary Session of the Asean Summit meeting in Myanmar, several heads of state and government, particularly Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia expressed support for the principles promoted by the Philippines anchored on following the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes in the West Philippine Sea,” the Palace official added.
Since 2012, Coloma said, significant progress has been made in terms of attaining support for the positions taken by the Philippine government. Quoting the president who met the Philippine media delegation in Myanmar on Sunday night, he added that the foreign ministers of all Asean member-countries emphasized three salient points, namely:
1. All countries concerned were urged to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions, which could undermine ease and stability in the area, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to resolve disputes by peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force.
2. The Asean member-countries reaffirm the importance of maintaining peace and stability, maritime security, freedom of navigation in and over flight above the South China Sea, as well the Asean’s six-point principles on the South China Sea, and the joint statement of the 15th Asean-China Summit on the 10th anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
3. All parties to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea were called on to undertake full and effective implementation of the DOC or Declaration of Conduct. In order to create an environment of mutual trust and confidence, the parties were advised to emphasize the need for expeditiously working toward an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
President Aquino reported that there were many leaders who expressed specific concerns including Prime Minister of Vietnam Tan Dung, who enumerated their problems in the South China Sea.
“I put in during the retreat our own incidents with regards to Ayungin, Scarborough, the Kalayaan Island group, the construction on Mabini Reef and the Galoc oil contract—service contract area . . . And then we did mention that consistent with everybody’s desire to resolve it in a peaceful manner, we did inform them officially of the March filing of the memorial before the arbitration tribunal under Itlos,” Aquino said.
“So, again, I don’t think there’s any disagreement that there really is, in this current incident, or series of incidents, a cause for worry and concern by all parties,” he added.
Also at the conclusion of the 24th Asean Summit on Sunday, the leaders adopted the Nay Pyi Taw Declaration on Realization of the Asean Community by 2015.
This year’s summit theme was “Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community.”
Moreover, the Southeast Asian leaders also pledged to further promote Asean’s efforts in peace and reconciliation in the region through mechanisms and entities associated with it.
The Asean also agreed to work closely with Nuclear Weapon States on the early signing and ratification of the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone without reservations by the Nuclear Weapon States.
The Asean community includes Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.