Aquino flies to Cambodia Saturday for Asean summit


President Benigno Aquino III. AFP FILE PHOTO

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Relations between the Philippines and Cambodia, soured by differences over how to approach the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) disputes, are expected to improve as President Aquino arrives here on Saturday for the biannual summit of Southeast Asian leaders.

Mr. Aquino will attend the 21st Asean Summit and related summits, where he will call on members of the bloc to speak with one voice in dealing with China on territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

He hopes to receive support from the United States and other Western countries, whose leaders are also attending the summit, in pressing for a united stand against China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the West Philippine Sea, believed to hold vast deposits of oil and gas and which is home to sea-lanes through which half of the global trade passes.

US President Barack Obama and leaders of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, India and China are attending the summit.

Speaking to reporters in the mountain resort city of Baguio on Thursday, Mr. Aquino said he hoped other countries outside of Asean realized it was necessary to maintain stability in the West Philippine Sea for the region’s growth to continue.

Mending relations

Philippine Ambassador to Cambodia Noe Wong said the two neighbors had made progress in strengthening relations this year in spite of a diplomatic row over how the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should deal with China, Cambodia’s ally and benefactor.

China insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the West Philippine Sea despite the competing claims of four Asean countries—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Asean also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Singapore and Thailand.

Relations between Cambodia and the Philippines soured in July after Cambodia blocked efforts by the Philippines and Vietnam to mention their run-ins with China in the West Philippine Sea in the customary joint communiqué that was to be issued at the end of an Asean ministerial meeting here.

As a result, Asean failed to issue a joint communiqué for the first time in its 45-year history.

“I think we have made progress for 2012 even (if) the July thing that you were asking me a while ago (happened),” Wong said in an interview with Radio-Television Malacañang here.

“There are contentious issues, of course, but overall I could say that we are making progress toward that… The contentious issues are only part of the so many issues that we are going to consider,” he said.

The spat between the Philippines and Cambodia came to a head in August when Phnom Penh’s ambassador to Manila, Hos Sereythonh, wrote a letter to a newspaper accusing the Philippines and Vietnam of “dirty politics.”

A Philippine protest led to Sereythonh’s recall.


No rifts?

Analysts said the episode showed deep rifts within Asean that could derail work toward a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea, which had been proposed to prevent territorial disputes in the area from erupting into armed confrontations.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) sees no such rifts in Asean.

When asked at a recent briefing if the summit here provided a chance for mending relations, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said there was nothing to fix.

“I think that issue has already been addressed with the submission and also with the approval of the six-point [consensus] that was initiated by Indonesia,” Hernandez said.

Shuttle diplomacy by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa after the failed Asean meeting here in July led to the adoption of the “six points of consensus,” which affirmed, among other principles, Asean’s commitment to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The bloc’s members also agreed to work toward the early adoption of a legally binding code of conduct in the sea.

Different dynamics

Hernandez said the 21st Asean summit and related meetings would have “totally different dynamics.”

“We are hoping and expecting that there will be smooth and very productive results of these meetings as far as our advocacies are concerned,” Hernandez said.

He noted that Asean had already taken the “first crack” at the drafting of the code of conduct. “In fact, we have already the elements that Asean members have approved and are ready to present to China,” Hernandez said.

“What is important here is to underscore the Asean centrality and, for Asean, it has always been our position that any initiatives should first be accepted and approved by Asean and only then would it be presented to other dialogue partners,” he said.

Wong said Cambodia’s chairmanship of the 2012 meetings helped Asean build the political security, economic and sociocultural pillars of the community, and that its relations with the Philippines were better than ever.

“Now, Cambodia and the Philippines have excellent bilateral relations. Both countries until now are continuing their efforts to strengthen cooperation in areas [that] are of mutual interest and benefit,” he said.

Wong noted that contacts between the two countries date back to the 6th century through the trade routes established by Malays in Southeast Asia. But formal diplomatic relations between Manila and Phnom Penh began only in 1957.

Filipinos in Cambodia

“Officially,” Wong said, there are 3,497 Filipinos in Cambodia, most of them employed in the garments and textile industry, hotels and restaurants, academic institutions and nongovernmental organizations.

“I said officially because this is the number of Filipinos who registered in the consular office or in the embassy. But, in my estimate, I could safely say that maybe between 5,000 to 6,000 Filipinos are here,” he added.

Dialogues and consultations between Manila and Phnom Penh will continue through the Joint Conference on Bilateral Cooperation, Wong said. With a report from AFP

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  • Ben

    Let us not think about our predicament obviously in the gathering and talk only as though for the Philippines interest, but what the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia (the latter has a modernized armed forces and is strong enough so is being saved by China for last) will suffer as a consequence out of any Chinese tantrum in the region and how it will affect ASEAN in the future context. The conflict resulting from Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and The Philippines against China will no doubt drag the whole ASEAN affairs. Cambodia`s desire to stick it`s head under the sand to avoid the reality will definitely has a future repercussion especially after merging of ASEAN economy…any disruptions of its member`s economy due to the conflict in the sea can pull all to the negative territory. Besides, in the future this conflict will also be inherited by ASEAN once it becomes a one country, one political system, one military system in the future.

    Multilateralization is the name of the game. Merge ASEAN economy and the other asian powers such as Japan, Korea Australia, India and the US, with combined economy China can be balanced if it ever try rocking the region`s stability from the north to the south. One way or another a merged free trade systems can be another defense against China`s any attempt to distabilize the region. For one country to be distabilized, means all countries involved in the free trade or merging of economy will also be feeling the economic pressure of disruptions done by China and will act accordingly. So, in unity again there is strength against the mongoloid, brain frozen in time, China mainland.

    • Free_Pacific

      Right on Ben, regionalisation is also our best weapon. Free movement of people and stronger more intergrated institutions.

      To put things in perspective, Just Australia and New Zealand (Combinded less than 30 million people) have a GDP the same size as Russia (Over 140 million people). Then you have China (1.3 billion people) who has en economy 3.5 times the size of Australia and New Zealand combined, but has 44 times more people.

      Add those countries to ASEAN and you get a clear picture of the power the asia-pacific represents. China is dwarfed by our potential, real and to be realised. The CCP knows this and will go to every length, to either prevent this, or as an ‘observer’ install mechanisms to hobble this.

      The recent leadership shuffle in China and the subsequent speech, of “We need to become a marine power and build more tech to harness sea resources” just shows they realise this also. To be frank, it frightens them, as their want for ‘superpower’ status, would be stumped instantly by an inter-connected asia-pacifc. China needs to stay on the mainland and stop stealing islands, or it’s quest for greed and power might turn out to be far more than it bargained for.

  • justice_league03

    Cambodia, are you ready for the one and the only Benigno Aquino III??? Get set as Mr. Aquino has prepped up a set of his infamous uncalled for joking, baseless bragging, unconscious crapping and many more.

    Meanwhile, Philippines, are you ready for another humiliation???

  • Your_King

    We all hope the Philippine President acts more Presidential on these foreign trips instead of coming-off as a second rate comedian complaining and whining about his predecessor.

  • agustin

    pnoy was sick yesterday so he was not able to talk to IMF director Lagarde. she must be thinking that it was pnoy she was talking with. with some doubts she ask Binay what is his secret about hair grooming,from thin hair to a thick and black hair. Binay replied : it is like an IMF secret.

  • EdgarEdgar

    For the good of the country, Noynoy should seriously consider staying in Cambodia forever. Noynoy’s immovable indolence sits perfectly well with the immovable Cambodian ruins. Like the ruins, this lazy heir of bloodsucking slaveowners and landlords is a relic of our feudal past. Like the lazing statues in the ruins, Noynoy’s lazy bones will be very much at home in the Cambodian ruins. Besides, Noynoy has never been a productive member of our society. He wasn’t even good at selling Nike shoes door to door. For the entire 52 years of his life, he lived off the blood and sweat of penniless, helpless, landless and hopeless peasant farmers. 52 years of mindless indolence. 52 years of subsidized existence. 52 years of being a big cross for peasant farmers to bear. Time now for Noynoy to turn into stone and be one with the Cambodian ruins. That’s where he truly belongs.

    • John Thomas

       I pity you EdgarEdgar. From what part of earth are you coming from? Are you a Filipino? I guess not. I guess your father had been beating you real hard when you were a boy. Haven’t you realized what good has PNoy brought to our country since he was President. Or maybe you prefer to suck GMA’s toes if you wanted to bring back her regime. People like you are pathetic.

      • EdgarEdgar

        But of course I love GMA. Given a chance, I would very much love to suck her toes clean, bathe her with my own body and cuddle her forever. GMA is so cute, so kikay in her flowing black hair and shapely petite bosom. When our little lady of VMMC comes out, I’ll tuck her in every night, read her a story or lullaby her to sleep and have her curl up right beside me.

        Would you like to share with us how you fell in love with an ugly bald gay bachelor better known by his pet name as Noynoy? Btw, you must know by now that Noynoy had an unhappy childhood and uneasy relationship with his dad.

      • beerhunters

        rest assured that, like you,  Penoy is so enamoured with the little lady that his main topic in the conference will still be her, nothing else, just the blame game!

  • opinyonlangpo

    Whatever Asean meeting will happen, Cambodia will continue and will always be a lapdog of China. Even before the meeting started it is giving a warning not to annoy China, should be better if Cambodia quits the Asean and just become a province of China but the chinese cannot even accept Cambodians as their equal, they are lapdogs.

  • Cal_Reznick

    The President’s comedy tour continues filled with more inconsiderate, senseless, and pointless jokes and blame towards the former President. He’s supposed to be doing good on foreign trips but instead he just uses these trips to attack the former President and makes the country pay for it…and i mean pay for it as in the entire cost of the trip is covered by the Philippines.

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