Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00
The Philippines reiterated anew its call on the other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a united and decisive role in the resolution of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) disputes by supporting its proposal that a meeting be held as soon as possible among the claimant states, including China, under the guidance of ASEAN.
”The Philippines calls on all ASEAN Member States to endorse this proposed claimant states’ meeting, which the Philippines is ready to host. We would also welcome other ASEAN Member States to host this meeting if they would like to unequivocally express their support for and advance a rules-based approach in the region,” Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in his statement at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) Retreat held in Siem Reap, Cambodia on January 11.
”The Philippines eagerly awaits ASEAN’s response to this proposed meeting of claimant states,” he added. p>The DFA chief also reiterated that a rules-based approach is the only legitimate way in addressing disputes in the West Philippine Sea and that the dispute settlement mechanism established in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the fundamental principle of the rules-based approach being espoused by the Philippines.
Del Rosario said the rules-based approach under UNCLOS also calls for the resolution of disputes through peaceful means, thus the Philippines proposed to ASEAN the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship, and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) as the actionable framework to clarify and segregate the disputed land features from the non-disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea, and in the process, address the issue of the 9-dash line.
The Philippines also has stated that it is considering third party adjudication, arbitration or conciliation, as appropriate, in the context of the dispute settlement mechanism of UNCLOS.
”Thus far, we are pleased that fellow ASEAN Member States support the rules-based approach, which essentially calls for: (1) solving the issue peacefully, (2) in accordance with the rule of law, particularly international law and UNCLOS, and (3) the multilateral participation of various stakeholders to account for the various perspectives and interests. These principles are the very bedrock of our international order. We have all furthermore agreed that we have to move forward with the Code of Conduct,” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario also stated that as the ASEAN is working on building the ASEAN Community, “it behooves Member States to now play a positive and meaningful role to solve the disputes peacefully in accordance with the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) and reach a stage whereby we are able to help resolve sensitive issues decisively without letting such issues fester and adversely affect the progress of our bilateral or multilateral relations.”
He further noted that all are eager to move forward on the Code of Conduct to resolve the issues in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippines is ready to accept a Code of Conduct that calls for the primacy of international law, including UNCLOS, in resolving the disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
“It is ready to accept a Code of Conduct that espouses the concrete and actionable activities to foster cooperation in the West Philippine Sea in the context of international law,” Del Rosario said.
He also stressed that the Philippines is willing to commit to a Code of Conduct that addresses the very core of the issue and that is to define, clarify, and segregate the disputed areas from the non-disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
”I understand that these elements may require considerable focus to achieve our objective. As I have often expressed, ASEAN is at a critical juncture of playing a momentous role for the resolution of the disputes in the WPS/SCS. We must now muster the will as an ASEAN Community to face these sensitive issues with determination,” he said.
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