MANILA - President Aquino scored on Monday China's construction in the Mabini or Johnson South Reef as a violation of the non-binding Declaration on the Code of Conduct of parties in the West Philippine Sea.
China has rejected the Philippine protest of its reclamation activities in the reef, supposedly aimed at building an airstrip in the area.
Aquino said the provision that is being violated states: "The parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner."
He added: "Walang changes until matapos nga 'yung territorial disputes. So sa aking pananaw, 'yung ginawa sa Mischief Reef noong araw, 'yung ginagawa ngayon, lahat ito parang seemingly in violation noong pinagkasunduan na Declaration of Conduct."
The President, however, noted that since the DOC is non-binding, it cannot be enforced. For it to be operational and enforceable, he said a Code of Conduct must be drafted.
He said he repeated a call for ASEAN member-states to make a Code of Conduct in 2012. He said the code would help lower tensions after Beijing claimed ownership of almost the entire South China Sea.
"In 2002, sinubukan nilang gumawa… Sinubukan ng ASEAN in dialogue with China to come up with the Code of Conduct to govern 'yung behavior in the South China, to manage the disputes. Hindi nakasundo-sundo doon sa Code of Conduct; ang naging resulta Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. So ito 'yung tinatawag na DOC," he said.
Aquino has insisted on a multilateral approach to resolving disputes in the South China Sea. He intends to discuss the latest developments with his Vietnamese counterpart, who, along with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will attend the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Manila this week.
"Pina-finalize lahat nung details. Nag-usap rin kami noon sa-informally, ano-informally doon sa ASEAN sa Nay Pyi Taw sa Myanmar. Parati naman tayong… Di ba, pare-pareho tayo ng sitwasyon nito, pinipilit natin 'yung isulong 'yung tinatawag na ASEAN centrality. Inaabisuhan natin 'yung ating mga brother nations sa ASEAN na itong nangyayari at nagtatanong tayo ano pang gagawin natin collectively dahil kailangan united 'yung ASEAN at kailangan sang-ayon lahat ng grupo," he said.
Last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs released pictures of the reclamation activities in Mabini Reef.
The construction comes amid China's assertion of its claims in parts of the South China Sea. Previously, it prevented a Philippine ship from restocking an outpost in the Ayungin Shoal.
Chna has also drawn the ire of Vietnam over an oil rig in the Paracel Islands, leading to the ramming of Vietnamese and Chinese ships, exchanges of water cannons and widespread riots in Vietnam that saw the torching of Chinese companies.
The government has likened the Mabini Reef reclamation to the construction at the Mischief Reef, which the Philippines lost to China.