Yasay: No Hague ruling in ASEAN talks
THE HAGUE arbitral ruling last year in favor of the Philippines over its maritime dispute with China will not be discussed in this year’s meeting by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which the Philippines serves as the current host.
But the regional organization together with China are expected to discuss a Code of Conduct over the disputed South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr. said in a news conference on Wednesday that, apart from his prepared remarks, tackled relations with China in the context of the dispute.
“[The Code of Conduct (CoC)] has nothing to do with the arbitral tribunal decision,” Mr. Yasay said, adding that this “is simply the framework... that will enable the parties to make sure that in the settlement of disputes we follow all the legal and diplomatic processes accorded to us under international law, observing the rule of law, and at the same time ensuring that we will be resolving our disputes peacefully without further increasing or heightening the tension that will undermine the peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”
The CoC is intended to provide the framework for claimants — which include Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei — to settle territorial disputes in the region.
The Code is based on a 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by ASEAN member states and China.
The Philippines has been among the nations pushing for its creation, since former Philippine President Benigno S. C. Aquino III addressed the 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. Following a standoff that year ending with China’s control over the area of Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines brought an arbitral case the next year against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
Asked if the arbitral ruling would be raised in the ASEAN summit, Mr. Yasay said: “[ W] e are not going to raise this decision with the arbitral tribunal because there really is no useful benefit.”
“This is a matter that we will be raising to China in some future time on bilateral talks and to do and involve others in this discussion of this decision will simply be counterproductive to our purposes,” he added.
“China is very cooperative in coming up with the Code of Conduct,” Mr. Yasay also pointed out, adding that Mr. Duterte’s pivot to China has helped encourage the country and other ASEAN member states to move forward on the COC.
“I would say that indeed there has been a substantive influence on the approach of the Duterte administration in dealing with our disputes in the South China Sea as part of a confidence building measure that has also encouraged China and the member states of ASEAN to move forward to the CoC,” he added.
Mr. Yasay expressed the hope that the framework CoC would be ready by mid- 2017, possibly ahead of the ASEAN ministerial meeting in the Philippines. —
FOREIGN AFFAIRS SECRETARY Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr.