MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang declined to comment on a report that China has allegedly built a radar in Subi Reef near the Kalayaan Group of Islands, saying it first has to be verified.
But Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Secretary Ricky Carandang said that if proven, the action may viewed as a “provocative action.”
“ASEAN is now meeting, the foreign ministers. The idea being put forward is a code of conduct. What does the code of conduct say? It says none of the claimant countries should take any actions that would provoke tensions in the area. If that is confirmed, then that would be viewed, I would think, [as] a provocative action. That would not be consistent with the code of conduct which is being discussed now by ASEAN and by China,” Carandang said.
He urged the parties to avoid taking actions that may increase tensions over the disputed territory as the ASEAN and China discuss the possibility of adopting a binding code of conduct that will govern actions in the South China Sea.
“The idea is to get to the point where we have a code of conduct that is binding to all parties. That has been the issue. While we are trying to come up with a code of conduct, it has so far not been binding. Still, in the spirit of the code of conduct, let’s not take actions that will unduly provoke or increase tensions while we’re discussing these sensitive matters,” Carandang said.
The Palace believes that a binding code of conduct will be beneficial to all claimant countries in the South China Sea, including China.
“I think it’s not just a boost to our position. I think it’s a boost to the entire ASEAN. I think we will all benefit from some kind of set of rules by which all the claimant countries can abide by. It boosts us, it boosts ASEAN, I think in the end it will also boost China because if everyone can agree on a set of rules on how to behave in the disputed waters, then that reduces the tensions and that will benefit everybody, not just the Philippines,” Carandang said.
There is no change in the diplomatic track that the Philippines intends to pursue in pushing for the code of conduct despite a statement reportedly made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario blasting China for its “duplicity” and “intimidation” in the South China Sea.
“We’re proceeding along the same track that we said we would. We’re meeting with ASEAN, we’re talking to them to try to come up with common position regarding a code of conduct, after which we intend, as a body, to talk to China about getting them on board with the code of conduct,” Carandang said.
“The statements that may have been made by some of the foreign ministers, not just Secretary del Rosario, but some of the other during the ASEAN meeting, I think, are not as important as whether or not the output from this meeting is satisfactory to us. When the joint communiqué comes out, if we’re happy with it, then that’s really the more important aspect of those talks,” he added.