PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has called for increased connectivity among the 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to stir the regional bloc to prosperity.
“Moving forward to ensure the Asean’s viability, a new set of three Cs—community, centrality, and connectivity—will define the work and effort needed to ensure the success of our community-building process and our interaction with external partners,” Duterte said during the opening plenary session of the Asean Summit on Monday morning.
Duterte underscored that the discussions during the Asean Summit would also zero in on consolidating Asean countries’ efforts in ensuring a rules-based and people-centered regional bloc.
“It is also an opportunity for us to discuss the cooperation needed to respond to the rapid regional and global developments, as well as threats posed by non-traditional security issues affecting peace, stability and prosperity of our regions,” Duterte added.
Asean member states are expected to sign an agreement on the protection and promotion of rights of migrant workers, as well as announce the timeline for the negotiations of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, during the Asean Summit in Manila.
In July 2016, the United Nations (UN) Arbitration Tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines by declaring China’s nine-dash claim of sovereignty over the entire South China Sea as illegal. China’s nine-dash line overlaps the exclusive economic zones not only of the Philippines but of three other Asean countries, namely Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The same court decision also upheld the 200 nautical miles off shore exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines in the area, dubbed by Manila as West Philippine Sea.
The Asean has an existing Declaration of Conduct (DOC)with China dating back to 2002, which provides that parties should “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
The Asean-DOC, however, is a non-binding pact.
Asean groups the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. The regional bloc is celebrating its 50th founding anniversary this year, with the Philippines as one of its founding members.