Philippines urged to raise legal win vs China during ASEAN Summit

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 27 2017 12:12 PM

An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. Francis Malasig, Reuters/Pool

MANILA - A Southeast Asian nation with claims to the South China Sea on Thursday urged its neighbors to make reference to Beijing's defeat before an international arbitration court in their statement at the end of the summit this week.

The matter was brought up during informal discussions before representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were scheduled to resume drafting the document, said a Philippine official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The suggestion was directed more to the Philippines, this year's ASEAN chairman and recipient of the 2016 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, the official said.

The ruling rejected the basis of Beijing's sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

"It's just a matter crafting the right word, sentence or phrase but the suggestion was there should at least be a reference to the ruling," he told ABS-CBN News.

Beijing earlier welcomed Manila's decision not to tackle the ruling during ASEAN meetings this year.

"I like it very much," Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua told reporters during the launch of the Philippine hosting in January.

Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez earlier warned it would be "very embarrassing" if another claimant country pushed for the arbitral ruling under the Philippine chairmanship.

Aside from the Philippines, fellow ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei also have claims in the South China Sea.

Last February, "two to four" ASEAN ministers brought up the issue during a meeting in Boracay, said Perfecto Yasay Jr., then acting Philippine foreign secretary.

Including the reference would be an improvement on last year's ASEAN statement, which sought a "peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law."

But while the Laos statement "took note of the concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamations and the escalation of activities" in the South China Sea, it made no reference to China, the regional bloc top trading and a dialogue partner.

China has built artificial islands in the disputed waters, installing weapons systems as well, despite a 2002 agreement with ASEAN to exercise "self-restraint" and not to complicate the dispute.