MANILA - A spokesman of President Aquino urged China to sit down with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and agree to a binding code of conduct of parties on the South China Sea.
This, as Malacanang maintained that the visit of Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is not aimed at having the Philippines and Vietnam gang up on China.
"We hope that China would sit down with ASEAN and discuss the Declaration of the Code of Conduct. We are hoping that China would… China has already stated its position that it is willing to work on the declaration but we have… We don’t have the latest updates on that. But again, ASEAN is prepared to speak to China, and we hope that China will sit down with ASEAN nations and move the discussion on the declaration further up," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Lacierda said the Vietnamese official's visit should not be viewed as the Philippines and Vietnam joining forces against China, one of the world’s largest economies.
"No, that's not the proper context to it. The Prime Minister is also here for the World Economic Forum so we are… We certainly have a commonality with respect to our dispute with China. But again, this is an issue that has been tackled with the ASEAN as a whole, where certain statements have been made before the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting. So hindi naman siguro tama na ‘yun ‘yong konteksto ng pagmi-meeting nila,' he said.
President Aquino is preparing to receive Vietnam's Prime Minister in Malacanang ahead of the World Economic Forum on East Asia, which Manila is hosting this week.
Tensions between China, Vietnam and the Philippines have been rising as they assert their claims on the South China Sea.
Riots torched Chinese factories in Vietnam following the collision of Vietnamese and Chinese ships amid the discovery of a Chinese oil rig in the Paracel Islands that Vietnam claims.
The Philippines has also protested China's land reclamation in the Mabini or Johnson South Reef, their obstruction of a Philippine ship that aims to restock an outpost on Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal as well as Chinese activities in the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc and the Spratly or Kalayaan Islands in recent years.
President Aquino has denounced the reclamation as a violation of the nonbinding declaration on the code of conduct.
Lacierda said discussion on a binding code of conduct is a work in progress.
"Well, the important thing is that ASEAN work as one. What we have stated before as working as one bloc and the centrality—emphasizing the centrality of ASEAN in moving towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, that is something that ASEAN as bloc is working towards alongside China. Independent of the ASEAN, again, we have our arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea," he said.
In the 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia denounced China’s actions. The summit ended with the issuance of the so-called Nay Pyi Taw declaration, which among others stated their agreement: "To strengthen cooperation for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), especially calling on all parties 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 in the South China Sea (COC) as reflected in the ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea."
Aside from Prime Minister Dung, Aquino is also receiving this week, outgoing Indonesian President Susilo bambang Yudhoyono who is also attending the WEF.
Yudhoyono had warned against China's gunboat diplomacy in the last ASEAN summit.
Lacierda said Aquino and Yudhoyono will also discuss defense issues.
"In all likelihood, ASEAN will be discussed. But insofar as the specific points, wala pa tayong nakukuha," he said.
Yudhoyono will be conferred with the Order of Sikatuna with rank of Raja during the State Dinner to be hosted in his honor.
At the World Economic Forum on East Asia (WEF-EA) on May 22, Yudhoyono will be conferred with the Global Statesmanship Award, and witness the official turnover to Indonesia of the hosting of the 24th WEF-EA in 2015.
Indonesia was the 13th major trading partner of the Philippines in 2013, with a total trade of US$3.512 billion.
There is a 9,844-strong Filipino community living and working in Indonesia. This year also marks the 65th Anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Indonesia.
This will be President Yudhoyono's first bilateral visit to the Philippines since he became Indonesia’s President for two consecutive terms in 2004 and 2009.
President Aquino undertook his State Visit to Indonesia on March 7 to 9, 2011.