The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has given “broad support” for the Philippine-proposed Triple Action Plan (TAP) that calls on China to cease its provocative actions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a press briefing that the Philippines was “satisfied” with the response on the TAP during the recent Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar.
Asean is composed of the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.
“Asean is supportive. They felt parts of it, the TAP, were doable. I think, in general, there is
broad support for TAP among Asean countries,” Jose said.
China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea has been a cause of concern for the international community, which fears that disputes in the region, a vital sea route for trade, could lead to an armed conflict.
The West Philippine Sea, which is believed to hold vast amount of oil and mineral deposits, is being claimed in whole by China, and in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam.
Jose cited Paragraphs 151 and 152 of the AMM joint communique, which reflects the immediate and intermediate approach of the TAP.
Paragraph 151 urges all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that would complicate the situation and undermine peace, stability, and security in the South China Sea.
The same paragraph also calls on all parties to settle disputes through peaceful means, while encouraging friendly dialogue, consultations and negotiations, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos].”
Paragraph 152 on the other hand, stressed the need for Asean and China to maintain peace, stability, maritime security and mutual trust in the region.
It also called for the full implementation of the 2002 Asean-China Declaration on the Code of Conduct (DOC), which aims to reduce tensions in the disputed waters.
The joint statement wants a more definitive interpretation of articles 4 and 5 of the DOC, which pertains to the activities in the region that is considered as basis for escalating tensions.
The joint communique also stated the bloc’s collective agreement to “intensify consultations” with China on the “substantive negotiations for the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea [COC].”
As for the final approach, which is to find a durable and long-lasting solution to the disputes, Jose said the Philippines is determined to push through with it.
Although China rejected the TAP, Jose said “all is not lost because the AMM joint communique of the Asean, inducted two of the elements we are proposing.”
“For us, one of the means is through the arbitration. We already determined that the mechanism available to us is arbitration,” he added.