MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines expects China to cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in coming up with a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), where 2 two countries and several others have competing territorial claims.
Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the issue will be discussed with Chinese officials during the 21st ASEAN summit and related summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia later this week.
“The ASEAN is already ready with the elements of the code of conduct and we are ready to negotiate with China,” he told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday. “So we hope China would respond positively and immediately tackle this issue so that we can have something binding for our issue on the West Phlippine Sea.”
The Philippines is currently locked in a territorial dispute with China over several areas in the West Philippine Sea. Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia also claim certain parts of the area.
Hernandez noted that the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties on the South China Sea will reach its 10th year.
“What we expect to happen is that we will be able to convince China to commit on starting the negotiation on the code of conduct for the good and stability and the peace in the region,” he said.
Hernandez added that the Philippines is hopeful that the recent leadership change in China would enhance their relationship with each other, particularly in terms of marine security and cooperation.
He also believes that whatever help that ASEAN’s dialogue partners, including the United States, can give in trying to pursue a peaceful solution to the West Philippine Sea problem “would be of great help to our advocacy.”
Hernandez said President Benigno Aquino III is focused on pointing out during the meetings that the Philippines is committed to a peaceful resolution of disputes in the sea in accordance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Hernandez voiced his optimism on West Philippine Sea negotiations despite the ASEAN’s failure to come up with a joint statement on the issue last April. This created tension between the Philippines and Cambodia -- the ASEAN host this year and an ally of China.
“I think that issue has already been addressed with the submission and also with the approval of the six-point principles that was initiated by Indonesia and which was approved by ASEAN. And we think that with these six principles on the South China Sea issue, we can move forward,” Hernandez said.
President Aquino will leave for Cambodia on November 17 for the ASEAN Summit, where world leaders like US President Barack Obama are expected to attend.
Aside from the West Philippine Sea issue, President Aquino is expected to advocate for migrant workers’ protection and welfare, human rights, and a review of the ASEAN Charter.
Among the activities during the summit are the signing of the Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, and the official launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Negotiation with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
The President will also join other ASEAN leaders in meetings with its dialogue partners: Japan, South Korea, India, China, and the United States.
So far, however, President Aquino is not scheduled to have a one-on-one meeting with any head of state.