THE saying might makes right once gain prevailed in the territorial row between China and the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
This after the Philippines’ proposed Triple Action Plan (TAP), was snubbed and totally disregarded in the joint communiqué of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Regional Forum (ARF) as talks held in Myanmar wrapped up last week.
Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wanna Maung Lwin released the joint communiqué on the 21st ARF held in Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar on August 10.
In the joint communiqué, the ministers reaffirmed the importance “of promoting peace, stability, maritime security, unimpeded trade, and freedom of navigation and over flight” in the West Philippine Sea, where China and other claimant-countries have traded diplomatic spats and exchanged accusations.
Although the ministers stressed the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), it did not mention the Philippines’ arbitration case against China, which seeks to invalidate the ancient nine-dash line covering 90 percent of the disputed region.
It also omitted the immediate approach under TAP, which is the moratorium or “freeze” on activities in the region that could lead to an escalation of tension.
Instead, the ministers called on all parties concerned “to exercise self-restraint and to avoid actions that would complicate the situation.”
The ministers highlighted the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and substantive consultations for Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).
Asean is composed of the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.
The ARF comprises Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, South Korea, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, North Korea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and the United States.
China’s inclusion in the ARF meetings meant there was no consensus on the TAP, which it has already rejected.