Leaders call for cooperation, support for ASEAN solidarity

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2014 06:02 PM | Updated as of May 12 2014 11:03 AM

ASEAN leaders leave after taking a group picture during the opening ceremony of the 24th ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw on Sunday. Photo by Soe Zeya Tun, Reuters

MYANMAR -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to strengthen cooperation for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The so-called Nay Pyi Taw declaration also called on all parties in the conflict "to exercise self-restraint and non-use of force as well as refrain from taking actions that would further escalate tension and to work towards an early conclusion of the code of conduct."

This is one of 28 points in the declaration, which also saw commitments to intensify efforts in realizing the ASEAN economic community by 2015.

In a briefing after the Leaders' Summit and Retreat, Philippine Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma recalled that many ASEAN leaders came out with clear statements echoing calls for the rule of law in disputes.

The summit comes amid rising tensions in the South China Sea.

Coloma said that during the summit, he personally heard Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak call on the ASEAN to be rational and reasonable, to observe, abide and implement the declaration of the code of conduct, and to support Asean solidatity even in "daunting situations."

Coloma said Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang also called on the ASEAN to continue demonstrating ASEAN unity even as he vehemently denounced actions of China in the South China Sea.

"In today's plenary, I heard Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia call for concrete demonstration of ASEAN solidarity in terms of promoting adherence to the rule of law. And he said that this is the way by which ASEAN could project itself as a respectable and reliable organization," Coloma said.

"Indonesia President, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also emphasized the need for ASEAN solidarity. And he called the members of ASEAN to show moral courage and he spoke after the President of Vietnam also called on ASEAN solidarity for following the rule of law," he added.

"I heard him say that there should be no room for the use of gunboat diplomacy because in fact what should be promoted is a peaceful means of settling disputes by following the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the ASEAN Declaration on the Code of Conduct. We are aware that Vietnam is contesting certain actions taken against it in the South China Sea."