MANILA — The Philippines has made the case for China’s proposal to elevate its dialogue relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. made the pitch during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat on Thursday. This would make China’s dialogue relations to the ASEAN from strategic partnership to comprehensive strategic partnership.
“All these should be taken into consideration as we study China’s proposed elevation of dialogue relations... The Philippines goes along with this proposal as China Coordinator; and to [bring] China’s case for it to this forum,” the foreign affairs chief pointed out in his intervention, a copy of which was released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
He also emphasized that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi “made a good case for China’s proposition” to elevate relations when he visited Manila last week.
Locsin added that he would be committed to hear the views and concerns of fellow ASEAN members on the proposal.
The Philippines is the coordinator of ASEAN-China relations.
The country’s top diplomat also welcomed the moves to come up with a more comprehensive criteria on ASEAN’s external relations and in evaluating future partnerships to “further promote ASEAN Centrality and reduce even more its former marginality.”
“[This is] while staying skeptical of great power schemes that seek to drag in ASEAN piecemeal into larger quarrels, more dangerous rivalries, and far bigger ambitions that we as a region of peace do not share.”
Code of conduct in the South China Sea
The country would also “press harder for the completion” for the second reading of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea’s negotiated text, said Locsin.
“It’s the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations. The Philippines will press harder for the completion of a Second Reading of the Negotiated Text for a COC. Friends we all are, true friends we all avow to be; as friends all around we owe each other sincerity,” he explained.
The Philippines, three of its fellow ASEAN members (Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam), Taiwan and China have competing claims in the South China Sea.
During the event, meanwhile, he also stressed the importance of maintaining the “momentum” of engagements in responding to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The foreign affairs chief earlier pledged a $100,000 contribution to the COVAX facility.
Led by the World Health Organization and GAVI vaccine alliance, the global COVAX initiative aims to ensure equal distribution of vaccines against the deadly virus.
He also noted the important role of external relations in ASEAN’s “relatively successful response to the pandemic,” citing South Korea, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union.
“They all greatly contributed to ASEAN response and recovery. As we expand our relations in the evolving regional architecture, let’s ensure that ASEAN stays at the center of regional developments,” he said.