PNoy bats for rule of law in 'sea of many names'
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - President Aquino called on his fellow Southeast Asian leaders to fast-track the crafting and adoption of a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea as a means of resolving overlapping territorial claims and maritime disputes in the region.
Speaking at the 23rd ASEAN summit hosted by Brunei Darussalam, the President said: "Our development as a region cannot be realized in an international environment where the rule of law does not exist. Thus, the recognition of the rule of law ensures that every member state's interest is upheld and respected. In the context of intertwining interests in the sea known by many names-- which is west of the Philippines, east of Vietnam, north of Malaysia, south of China-the challenge that confronts one is a challenge that confronts all."
The President lamented that the proposed code of conduct has been in the works since 2002, but has yet to be realized.
"All parties-both ASEAN and non-ASEAN, claimant or non-claimant-have stated: Follow the rule of law," the President noted.
"What better gift to all our peoples than to follow all these sincere words by meaningful actions? This sea known by many names, a problem now, presents an opportunity for ASEAN and all other parties to collectively exercise the observance of the rule of law."
Aside from the Philippines, Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam are also claimants to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
China is claiming in whole or in part some islands in the region, as well as some territories that are, under international law, deemed part of the Philippines.
Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang explained: "We have consistently pushed for moving forward on a rules-based peaceful resolution to the different territorial claims that have become issues amongst the countries here in this part of the world."
While he could not say how near or far Asean and China are to coming up with a code of conduct, Carandang said: "We're happy to note that, in the last few months, ASEAN and China have had more discussions about a Code of Conduct."
Both the Philippines and China were scheduled to participate in the Asean-China summit this afternoon. But outside of that, there are no scheduled meetings between President Aquino and Chinese Premier Li Kequiang.