Philippines urged anew to meet Beijing halfway

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 23 2014 02:42 AM | Updated as of Jan 23 2014 10:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines - China has reiterated its call on the Philippines to meet Beijing halfway to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China stays committed to resolving disputes with countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) together with all parties concerned, and upholding the principle of “shelving disputes and seeking joint development.”

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Bagan, Myanmar last week touched upon recent developments in the South China Sea and called on all parties concerned to resolve disputes through peaceful means and reaffirmed ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea.

“The key is that all parties should commit themselves to the full and effective implementation of the DOC and do more to promote mutual trust and cooperation. China hopes that relevant countries could meet China halfway to jointly maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea,” Hong said.

On Friday, the Philippines rejected China’s call on Manila to meet halfway on the new Chinese fisheries law, reiterating its invitation to Beijing to join in arbitration.

China had softened and called on the Philippines to meet Beijing halfway on the new fishing rules in the South China Sea that requires foreign fishing vessels to obtain the approval of Chinese authorities before entering the waters.

At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario raised the issues on the new Chinese fishing regulation in the South China Sea as well as the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) established last November.

The ECS ADIZ similarly obligates aircraft flying through the zone to provide identification and follow instructions or face defensive emergency measures from China’s armed forces.

Del Rosario said these latest developments violate the legitimate rights of other states under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), freedom of navigation and overflight, and is contrary to the DOC.

Del Rosario also said that ASEAN’s work on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) might be undermined if such changes to the status quo persist.

China’s ‘provocation is continuing’

A security official also expressed concern yesterday over China’s “continuing” provocative moves in the West Philippines Sea, the most recent of which was the deployment of two destroyers and an amphibious landing ship for naval exercise.

The official said Chinese warships coming from Hainan province started the exercises last Monday, but he did not disclose the exact area where China’s Navy is conducting the naval drill.

“Their provocation is continuing,” the security official said.

Earlier, China announced that it is deploying a 5,000-ton civilian patrol ship to one of its main islands in the South China Sea to conduct regular patrol, a move likely to fuel maritime disputes.– With Jaime Laude