Why PH, ASEAN want 2002 DOC strictly followed

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 14 2014 11:36 AM | Updated as of Aug 14 2014 07:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are intensifying their push for strict adherence to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), particularly on provisions calling for self restraint and cessation of provocative activities, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday.

He said the Philippines’ proposed Triple Action Plan (TAP) is specific about the need for countries with competing claims in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea to stop making moves that could threaten peace, security and stability in the region.

“To do this, we need to adhere to the DOC with focus – as a starting point – on Article 5. The specific article calls for exercise of self restraint, refrain from inhabiting uninhabited features and to resolve disputes in a constructive manner,” Del Rosario said in a text message to The STAR.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and China have overlapping territorial claims over parts of the South China Sea.

“The commitment of ASEAN is to study proposals related to Article 5, including TAP, and proceed from there,” he said.

Del Rosario presented on Friday the Philippines’ proposed framework for dealing with territorial spats in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea to the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.

The South China Sea issue dominated the ASEAN meetings in Myanmar.

Ignoring Beijing’s snub, Washington will continue to press for a freeze on provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea and support the Philippines’ TAP, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the ASEAN Youth Dialogues at the Ateneo de Manila University on Tuesday, Goldberg said the Philippines’ Triple Action Plan was “very much in agreement” with the US call for threshing out ways to reduce tensions in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

“We support the Philippines’ gesture to seek legal, peaceful and diplomatic solutions. The Triple Action Plan is very close the United States’ views,” Goldberg said.

“We want those claims to be resolved in a way that is consistent with international law so we will continue to press our point of view regardless of the reaction,” Goldberg said.

Earlier, China accused the US of deliberately stoking tensions in the South China Sea as it rejected Washington’s proposal for a freeze on provocative actions in the region.

This was after US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared at a forum in Myanmar to push for a multilateral agreement to end all actions that could further increase tensions in the region. “Some countries outside the region are restless, and stir up tensions... might their intention be to create chaos in the region?” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said in reaction to Kerry’s statement. – With Jaime Laude, Alexis Romero