PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd said the reclamation activities by China on some of the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) violate the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties it signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) members.
In his arrival speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport following a three-day trip to Malaysia for the Asean Summit, the President also rejected proposals for a bilateral approach to settle the disputes, noting that the principle of “Asean centrality” means the bloc must deal with China as a group.
“With the reclamation being done by China, can we say that it is abiding with the DOC that it signed? China’s activities clearly threaten security and stability in the region. It also affects free trade and destroys nature besides its impact on the livelihood of our people,” Aquino said in the vernacular.
A bilateral negotiation will not work, he explained, because no two countries can talk alone when other nations are involved in the problem.
“The problem is in Asean alone, four out of ten members are claimants in the Spratlys, not to mention the non-member nations like China and Taiwan,” the President said.
“We know that whatever agreement two countries may reach, they cannot force the other four countries to abide by it,” Aquino pointed out.
The President said the sea disputes with China was one of his major agenda in attending the Asean Summit that was held in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.
Asean leaders were encouraged to respond to the problem as a “community.”
Aquino was elated by the statement of the Summit Chairman, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, that supported Manila’s stand that the DOC should be firmly observed by all signatories.
“We continue to pursue amicable and peaceful ways to achieve the Code of Conduct,” he said.
He stressed that the DOC was agreed upon by all members of the Asean to pave the way for the more binding Code of Conduct.
“That’s why if the DOC is violated, the deal with the entire Asean is also violated,” said Aquino.