The Daily Manila Shimbun


ASEAN to raise “serious concern” over developments,  escalation of activities in South China Sea: draft chairman’s statement

April 26, 2017

Southeast Asian leaders are set to raise "serious concern" over escalating activities in the disputed South China Sea, according to a draft statement of President Rodrigo Duterte during the regional bloc’s meeting in Manila later this week. The draft communiqué omits the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippine petition invalidating China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea. But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the chairman’s statement for the 30 th ASEAN Summit “is still being finalized” as a draft communiqué said the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration will not be mentioned. Robespierre Bolivar, acting spokesman of the DFA, said in a text message to the Daily Manila Shimbun on Wednesday that "the draft statement is still being discussed and will take into consideration the views of the ASEAN member states." Bolivar recalled Duterte previously said the Philippines "will not stray from the four corners of the ruling" and that he will raise the elements of the ruling "at the proper time." Duterte is the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for this year. The 30th ASEAN Summit will be held in Pasay City on April 29. “We shared the serious concern expressed by some leaders over recent developments and escalation of activities in the area which may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region," the draft statement said apparently referring to China, which has built seven artificial islands, including an airstrip, in the disputed waters. While there was no direct reference in the arbitral ruling, the statement cited the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which became the basis of the PCA decision. "We reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursuing peaceful resolution of disputes, including through full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," it added. Four ASEAN member countries, namely the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, have been claiming some parts of the South China Sea, which, on the other hand, has been being claimed wholly by China. "We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight over the South China Sea," the draft chairman's statement said. The draft chairman's statement underscored the "importance of the full and effective implementation" of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety. "We were pleased with the progress to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct (COC), in order to facilitate the early adoption of the COC within the ASEAN-China process," the draft statement said. ASEAN and China have been working on the COC framework, which they hoped to complete within the year. (Celerina Monte/DMS)