MANILA - The non-mention of the Philippines' arbitration win against China in the draft ASEAN chairman's statement is "disappointing" and may reflect "absence of desired leadearhip," former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Wednesday.
Del Rosario believes the draft's treatment of the developments in the disputed areas in the South China Sea shows that there is a "minimum expectation of positive leadership" to be attributed to the Philippine chairmanship of the ASEAN.
"The draft of the Chairman’s Statement is deeply disappointing and, if not revisited, would manifest an absence of the desired leadership," he said in a statement.
The Philippines, which chairs the 10-member ASEAN this year, wants to underscore in its chairman's message the importance of "peace, stability, security, and freedom of navigation," and would urge all sea claimants to settle territorial disputes in a peaceful manner, the draft chairman's statement shows.
The Philippines, based on the draft chairman's statement, shares the "serious concern expressed by some leaders over recent developments and escalation of activities in the area."
"We were pleased with the progress to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct (COC), in order to facilitate the early adoption of the COC within the ASEAN-China process," it said.
Manila scored a victory against Beijing last year when the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration said China had no historic rights over the resource-rich South China Sea.
Beijing, however, refused to recognize the ruling.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who was weeks into office when the court decision was out, has thawed the Philippines' relations with China, which were frozen when his predecessor took the Asian economic giant to court.
He visited Beijing in October last year where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and secured an estimated $24 billion in trade and investment pledges.
His foreign affairs officials, however, assured that the administration will raise the arbitral ruling at the right time.
Del Rosario, in a forum Tuesday, said the Philippines should include the arbitral ruling in the ASEAN summit agenda as it is an "integral part" of the framework of the code of conduct in the disputed area.
He also urged ASEAN members to unite and protest China's activities in the South China Sea.