PHNOM PENH – He's not exactly feeling well, but President Benigno Aquino says he's happy.
After a long day at the ASEAN Summit, he believes discussions on the Philippines' and other Southeast Asian countries' territorial rifts with China made significant progress with talks on a code of conduct for disputed areas taking place.
“Parang napalapit na tayo doon sa punto na mailalabas ‘yan. ‘Yung mafo-formulate at magiging, hopefully, magkaroon ng rules. The rules will tell everybody what is expected of them, what they can do, what they cannot do. That promotes stability,” the President said.
For the President, attending the summit despite his doctor's advice for him to rest was worth it.
“Ang inaalala ko lang, baka naman nag-adrenaline surge. Masyadong natuwa, hindi ko lang nararamdaman, at pagbalik ko sasabihin ng doktor, 'Ikaw, hindi ka nakikinig eh,'” he said.
No timeframe has been set for the crafting of the code of conduct and there were tensions among Southeast Asian countries.
Early on Monday, President Aquino publicly disputed a statement by the summit's chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, that ASEAN members had a consensus to settle maritime disputes with China, only with China.
The Philippines seeks to bring the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea issue to the global stage, defying China's position that it should be settled among the claimant countries only, without the intervention of others.
So far, ASEAN countries are still divided on which track to take.
Both sides of the issue say they're for peace.
“Parties should exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability,” said Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario.
“We must continue to work to achieve peace and stability in the region,” said Fu Ying, Chinese vice foreign minister.
But they have different ways of trying to achieve it.
At a meeting of ASEAN leaders with US President Barack Obama, President Aquino called on the US to be involved in the issue because they have a stake in ensuring security and freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea.
“We recognize that they also have a right to say their piece and to be active in advancing also their interest. Noong araw pa natin sinasabi na it's a multilateral problem, hindi pwede ang bilateral solution,” President Aquino said.
After ASEAN's meeting with eight other countries in the East Asia Summit, the gathering ended on Tuesday with divisive issues like the South China Sea still lingering and unresolved. -- ANC