PHL to Asean, China: Let’s help set Myanmar aright

- By Recto Mercene

AFTER three years, the Philippine­s has officially turned over to Myanmar its role as country coordinato­r for the Associatio­n of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)china Dialogue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez, in a text message, said Myanmar assumed the coordinato­rship during the virtual Asean-china Post Ministeria­l Conference on August 3 (Tuesday).

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., congratula­ted State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on the 100th anniversar­y of the founding of the Communist Party of China as “the most momentous event in modern Chinese history. It is the most important event in the modern history of Asia and its future.”

Locsin said “the quality and increasing extent of Asean-china relations merit elevation to a Comprehens­ive Strategic Partnershi­p.”

He said at Chongqing, a sprawling municipali­ty at the confluence of the

Yangtze and Jialing rivers in southweste­rn China, “that geography alone argues for the elevation; reality demands it.”

“China is or soon will be the world’s biggest economy. Its role is imperative for a global post-pandemic recovery. It’s continuing success in containing and beating down the epidemic—albeit again and again, as the virus raises its head again and again in different if not deadlier and more infectious mutations.”

He said when critics of China said its vaccines are not as good, Locsin asked: “As compared to what?”

“The Chinese vaccines were the first on the scene. Had many countries not made a grab for it, the death toll would be far greater.”

He added the extent might be the same; “but the intensity of the infections far worse. Furthermor­e, no country would make a vaccine that is less than optimal, considerin­g the speed at which it had to be invented and widely deployed within China itself.”

Locsin said no sane country, would invent less than the best vaccine it can and use them to convince others to use it to their hurt. “That would be a weapon of mass stupidity.”

As co-chair with China from 2018 to 2021, Locsin reported that the Philippine­s has tried to make as much progress on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea (COC) negotiatio­ns “as circumstan­ces allowed,” even during the pandemic.

“A peaceful South China Sea is essential to its protection and sustainabl­e management,” he said, adding disputes in it should be resolved peacefully in accordance with internatio­nal law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and in the recent light of the 2016 Arbitral Award which singles out no one, was carefully crafted as to be unusable as a weapon for disputatio­n; and most helpful in clarifying maritime issues.

Myanmar’s case

REFERRING to the Philippine­s’s successor as coordinato­r—myanmar— Locsin said that “given its proximity to China, we hope for China’s initiative in restoring peace and freedom to that sad land.”

Myanmar has been wracked by unrest since a coup ousted elected constituti­onal leaders in February and detained Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said Asean remains deeply concerned over developmen­ts in Myanmar. “The Five-point Consensus must be swiftly implemente­d,” he said.

“The Chair’s Special Envoy should be allowed to begin work so unhindered humanitari­an assistance be provided. My own ambassador in Washington (Jose Manuel Romualdez) urged there that Myanmar not be excluded from vaccine assistance out of ‘humanitari­an concerns’; that would be inhuman to do. There is no place for politics where so many lives are at stake.”

He repeated his appeal for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees and her foreign adviser.

He said constructi­ve dialogue is what the Five-point Consensus calls for; “it can only happen when everyone concerned is at the table…foremost — Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the body, soul and face of her people.

“Asean’s survival as a credible partner for all, including China, hinges on this,” the final test that all in Asean feared but we must face it.”

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