Editor's Note: The Department of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement Friday in response to the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting's failure to issue a joint communique at the end of the gathering. Cambodia, which is holding the ASEAN's rotating chairmanship this year, blocked moves to mention in the joint statement the tension between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal.
Philippines Deplores Non-Issuance of 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Joint Communique
The Philippines announced today that it deplores the non-issuance of a Joint Communique on the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting which was unprecedented in ASEAN's 45 year of existence.
The Philippines takes strong exception to the statement made by the Chair of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting that this will be "the first time that ASEAN is not able to issue the Joint Communique due to bilateral conflict between some ASEAN Member States and a neighboring country."
The Philippines' Foreign Minister had discussed the situation in the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) in several ASEAN Ministerial Meetings in Phnom Penh starting last 09 July and he simply wanted the fact that he discussed the issue, be reflected in the Joint Communique.
In this morning's special meeting on the draft Joint Communique, several ASEAN Member-States and the ASEAN Secretariat supported the Philippine position that the fact that the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) issue was discussed in the Ministerial Meeting should be reflected in the Joint Communique.
However, the Chair has consistently opposed any mention of the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc at all in the Joint Communique and today announced that a Joint Communique "cannot be issued."
The Philippines further maintains that since the competing claims in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea (WPS/SCS) involve four ASEAN Member-States, namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, this dispute is not a mere bilateral conflict with a northern neighbor but a multilateral one and should therefore be resolved in a multilateral manner.
The Philippines declares that the ASEAN consensus reached during the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) last June on the elements of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea (SCS) already clearly underscores the fact that the ASEAN is pursuing the resolution of the dispute in a multilateral manner, and not in a bilateral fashion - the approach which its northern neighbor has been insisting on.
Further, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers have already agreed to initiate discussions between ASEAN and China on the development of the Code of Conduct.