ASEAN must first agree on Code of Conduct in West Philippine Sea before meeting with China, says DFA

April 2, 2012 11:00 pm 

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, April 2 — The Philippines on Monday said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must first agree among its members on the draft of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) before meeting with China.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario issued the statement during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Monday. He reiterated that the West Philippine Sea issue should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law.

Del Rosario, during the meeting, also reaffirmed the Philippines' commitment towards peace and stability in the Asia-PAcific region. "A decade ago, ASEAN and China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in Phnom Penh," he said.

"As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the said declaration, I would like to reaffirm our commitment to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region," he said.

The Foreign Affairs secretary also told the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting that a working group of the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting is currently working to identify the main elements of the regional Code of Conduct.

He said that the Code of Conduct must contain "guidelines by which stakeholder-states are to conduct themselves in the West Philippine Sea; mechanisms on dispute settlement including the appropriate structure for its effective implementation; clarification and segregation of disputed from non-disputed areas in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; and provisions relating to cooperative activities, as may be appropriate, for the disputed areas."

Del Rosario also reiterated the Philippines' position to adhere to the primacy of international law, including UNCLOS, in resolving the territorial disputes over the West Philippine Sea.

"On the Code of Conduct, it is important for ASEAN to first agree among themselves on the draft text of the code before meeting with China," Del Rosario said. "I reiterate that the Philippines adheres to the primacy of international law in resolving the disputes."

"We believe that a rules-based approach under the dispute settlement mechanism established in UNCLOS is the legitimate solution in addressing conflicting and overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea," the Foreign Affais secretary added.

He further said that the Philippines hopes that the Code of Conduct will be a real "move forward” not merely in terms of form, but more importantly in substance.

During the previous ASEAN summit, President Benigno S. Aquino III proposed the creation of a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFFC) in the West Philippine Sea. (PNA) RMA/PCOO/ssc

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