THE Philippines should leverage on its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) this year to put on the spotlight Southeast Asia’s most pressing political and security challenges, including territorial disputes involving multiple parties, think tank Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) said on Thursday.
“No stranger to the difficulties in the South China Sea, the Philippines is seeing new evolutions to its trials: first, in the form of Chinese vessels loitering in Benham Rise and, second, in the prospect of Chinese construction on Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal. In light of these events, the Philippines must continue to take pains to uphold its sovereign rights and defend its national interests against unlawful or unilateral action,” Stratbase ADRi President Dindo Manhit said.
Albert del Rosario was the secretary of Foreign Affairs in the previous administration. He led the Philippine government in filing a case against China before a United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016.
Nine months after the Philippines’s success at The Hague-based tribunal, the government has taken on the task of working with fellow Asean claimants to finalize a framework for the long-awaited Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.
“Thus far, however, the administration has not taken the opportunity to reaffirm the award nor address its significance to the region and the rules-based order that Southeast Asia has benefited from,” Manhit added.
But DFA Spokesman Robe Bolivar said there was confidence and a strong level of commitment among Asean member-countries and China to come up with a framework, especially under the chairmanship of the Philippines.
“There were two meetings already and we hope to finish the framework mid-2017,” Bolivar said.
Starting Wednesday next week for four days, the 10 leaders of Asean countries will gather in Manila.
China has shown interest in crafting the framework covering conduct in the South China Sea and has invited Asean members to a meeting in the mainland soon after the Manila summit.
The framework is expected to pave the way for a binding Code of Conduct where China will be prevented from militarizing disputed waters.