Yasay: No Hague rul­ing in ASEAN talks

Business World - - THE NATION - Lu­cia Edna P. de Guz­man

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.

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