DFA dares Asean to speak out vs China on sea row

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Sunday challenged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to speak out against China’s massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) that seek to change the status quo in one of the world’s most vital sea lanes.

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“Is it not time for Asean to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped? On this most important issue, is it not time for Asean to finally stand up for what is right?” del Rosario said during the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

China’s activities in the region undermine Asean’s leadership, centrality and solidarity, and Asean must be able to show the world that it can act for the common interest of the region, he added.

“Even as this issue is unfolding in our region, it invariably affects the entire global community. We have already heard from many members of the global community,” del Rosario said.

He welcomed the Declaration on Maritime Security issued last week by the G7 foreign ministers, the European Union and other nations, and statements of distinguished US senators and the Asean secretary-general on Beijing’s perceived aggressive actions in the South China Sea.

“In summary, it may be said that the Philippines has borne more than its share of the heavy burden for Asean and the international community on this issue” because it has repeatedly called Asean’s attention to the reclamation projects and China’s violation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC).

Del Rosario said China “is clearly and quickly advancing with its massive reclamation[s]” and “is poised to consolidate de facto control of the South China Sea” before a binding Code of Conduct (COC) is signed.

When this happens, a COC would only legitimize and make stronger China’s control of the resource-rich region, the Foreign Affairs secretary added, especially because China has admitted to plans of defense installations on the reclaimed areas of the sea.

The DOC would then be rendered “irrelevant” as well if Beijing was allowed to continue with its reclamation projects.

“The threats posed by these massive reclamations are real and cannot be ignored or denied. Their adverse implications are urgent and far-reaching, going beyond the region to encompass the global community,” del Rosario told his Asean counterparts.

Asean has long been divided over maritime issues in the region.

Although four of its members–the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam–are claimants, majority of the member-states are major economic partners of China.

The regional bloc also groups Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

Amid a naval standoff at Scarborough Shoal in 2012, Asean even failed to issue a joint communique because of reported disagreement on the maritime disputes.

Although most of the international community expressed their support for the Philippines’ arbitration case against China before the United Nations, Manila continues to seek a stronger Asean support for its legal approach to the issues.

Success of China’s reclamation activities would lead to control of almost 85 percent of the entire South China Sea, del Rosario said, and would further validate its encompassing nine-dash line claim.

It would further block Philippine access to almost seven features in the waters, including Ayungin Shoal, where the country’s navy’s BRP Sierra Madre had run aground.

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3 Comments

  1. Philippines has lost its voice and influence among its ASEAN partners, it is not that Philippines has no right to put a stake on its claim of the Spratly Islands, but it is because whatever right or political capital the country has over Spratly has been squandered by political lightweights that are occupying the government agencies, who deal on the country’s behalf over its national and international interest.

    Poor choices made by the Filipino electorates in electing people who should be responsible on working for its continued development, have weakened our country, to the point that Philippines has become a small voice and a lightweight contender among its peers – this is where the cause of the problem usually start.

    For BS Cojuangco Aquino III and Del Rosario to prod other ASEAN nations to speak up, it will just fall on deaf ears, because they know Aquino is on the twilight of his tenure and whose words does not have any value for these nations to collect, nor does Del Rosario’s words either, for both are umbilically linked in their weak stance and inconsequential rhetorics.

    ASEAN leaders will deal with the next administration – hopefully, Philippines will have a better leader and administration, which can leave our country out of its rut.

  2. No matter what it takes we have to depend our territory asking asean or protest will not do it.We should be using whatever we have right now and use it,we have to protect our fisherman that is their livelihood.Transfer those 2 hamilton class to PCG so can better protect our territory and take back scarborough no matter what.We have to do something this is total cowardice of our government this is unacceptable.

  3. Sec del Rosario supposedly “challenged” the Asean nations to condemn China’s reclamation in the south China sea. It looked to me more like he berated them for their inaction against the Chinese project. The nerve of this man doing that he might want to look at the real situation that, as reported, most of these nations are “major economic partners” of China and will not risk losing their trade opportunities which are to the best interests of these nations and their peoples. Del rosario’s brave stance of “what is ours is ours” reinforced by pnoy’s “we will defend recto shoal like claro recto avenue” have lost their sting albeit illusory when he begs the other Asean nations for their support even just verbally. It’s like hurling a challenge against a big bully then when the bully reacts he retreats behind a group.