Territorial disputes with China should unite Asean, says secretary general


Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan PHOTO/AP

PHNOM PENH — Territorial rows with China should bring the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) closer together than pull them apart, Asean secretary general Surin Pitsuwan said on Sunday

The Asean chief acknowledged the urgency of a united Asean stand in resolving the bloc’s disputes with China over the West Philippine Sea, or South China Sea, as tensions “are becoming closer to home.”

“The situation is going to push the Asean to move in one direction together, as the challenges are becoming much closer to home, affecting confidence, having some implications on foreign investment, concern about safety, and free access to the sea,” Surin told reporters.

The 21st Asean Summit and related Summits hosted by the Cambodian government opened formally on Sunday morning with President Benigno Aquino III in attendance in spite of a flu. He arrived at 8:40 a.m. Saturday on a Philippine Airlines flight.

His 53-member delegation includes Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

The government said it allocated P11 million for the presidential trip to the Nov. 18 to 20 summit. US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao are among the world leaders expected to descend on the Cambodian capital for the Asean summit and its related meetings.

According to Surin, it is clear that the world is paying much more attention than before to Asean. “This region is becoming more important than ever before, more critical to the word than five years ago or 10 years ago,” he said.

“It’s putting a sense of urgency on the Asean that we should move in the same direction. The Asean will coordinate, discuss, liaise with China, effectively moving forward into the future,” Surin said in a press conference at Peace Palace here.

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, along with Taiwan, have overlapping claims on parts of the West Philippine Sea, while China claims virtually the whole body of water as its own, often sparking maritime tensions.

The West Philippine Sea is believed to hold vast deposits of oil and gas and is home to sea lanes through which half of the global trade passes.

In April, a standoff that lasted months occurred between Chinese and Filipino forces over the disputed Scarborough shoal off Zambales island in the Philippines.

Surin said the Asean foreign ministers who attended the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting on Saturday, “expressed hope that we’ll get on with the work and we’ll have reciprocal enthusiasm from China to move forward,” especially in crafting a code of conduct (COC) for the negotiations.

“We’ve seen some hiccups along the way but both sides, all sides, committed to communicate the message to the global community that things are under control, and we’ll be able to work on the COC,” he said.

Surin said the new code of conduct would constitute “a collection of norms that are being used and being followed in other parts of world, as far as the open sea, the navigation, the security, safety, behaviors, the conduct of ships and vehicles going to any area in the open sea.”

“We expect them to be sanctified, to be binding, to be ratified, at the end of the process, whenever that is. We wold like to see the momentum going on forward on that issue,” he said.

At the meeting, Indonesia proposed the creation of a hot line for Asean on all emergency situations involving the West Philippine Sea.

“In the absence of COC, which is still in progress, in discussion, to avoid miscalculation, misleading of each other anybody in the high seas, Indonesia has come up with the idea to establish a communication channel” among the Asean members, Surin said.

“Call it a red line, give it a sense of urgency that if anything is developing, we all will be informed and we all will be activated into action, trying to consult, coordinate, contain any possible spillover of any accident, misunderstanding, miscalculation,” he said.

Surin said Indonesia’s proposal was pragmatic and practical, and would be helpful in managing any conflict situation in the high seas.

But the Asean leader said discussions by the foreign ministers did not make any specific reference to any issue beyond a general discussion on “how we’re going to manage the expectations, concerns, anxiety of the international community.”

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  • arao_liwanag

    ASEAN is a grouping of mostly US puppet countries lead by its running dog Philippines whose President has a brain illness.

    • Luthmar

      And you are supposed to be brainy with your comments?  Pls. have your head checked
      before you completely lose it. 

      • arao_liwanag

        masuerte ka at pinapatulan kita. miseducated ka.

    • Marlou Wang

      Delikado na ang takbo ng kukote mo… patingin ka na!!!!!!

  • Raul

    United against China!!!!! Go go go go…. China is evil empire in 21st Century.

    • AFPako

       Raultoy, ka kain mo lang ng bakukang na almosal, Talagang malakas ang dating mo ! Parang nagyupyup ng crack !

      • Marlou Wang

         Negro AFPako, ang saaarrrrrappp mong batukan ng 1000 toneladong bigat.

  • Malaysia333

    Silly Philippines think ASEAN can help you. Unfortunately, you are dreaming.

    1. Drop your claim on Sabah before Malaysia will even like you.

    2. Move your illegals home. They are dirty, full of diseases, and stealing Malaysia resources.

    3. Let Mindanao vote for independence or join Malaysia. After all, we are muslim brothers and sisters.

    • Marlou Wang

       Silly Malaysia think ASEAN will listen to you. Unfortunaely, you are dreaming.

      1.  Leave Sabah because 90% of the people there are Filipinos.

      2.  Move your illegals home.  You have plenty of prostitutes lurking there, and stealing Mindanao resources. Sabah is part of Sulu owned by the Sultan of Sulu.

      3. Leave the island of Borneo for it belongs to Indonesia and the Philippines.

      • Malaysia333

        Thank you. You just proved my point. There is no unity in ASEAN.

        My comments above are true. There are 300,000 to 400,000 illegal Filipinos in Sabah. The world recorgnises Sabah as a state in Malaysia. The country is peaceful and united. Whereas in Philippines, Mindanao has a muslim insurgency, and the country is not united.

        However, you falsely claimed the followings:
        – 90% of Sabah population is Filipinos.
        – There are any Malaysian in Mindanao.

        This just tells me and your countrymates how uneducated you are. If you want to debate, get the facts right first. Hint: Google, Wiki, and your teachers.

        I really wonder if you do the same thing to China (false claims). Mind you that if Philippines cannot take on Malaysia (a small country of 28 million), how can you take on a superpower like China. You are not just silly, you are insane, ;-)

      • TON_SING_WAH
 have abnormal education..hey malaysian dont malaysian..copycut..

      • TON_SING_WAH

         theres is a time for your still love animals..:)

      • Luthmar

        The number of Filipinos you mentioned living in Sabah are not illegal Filipinos.  They are the true habitants of the island.  The reason why the Philippines cannot continue, for now, its claim on the island is because the bloody Brits (your coloniser) does not give the Phili. access to its records.  The Brits screwed us up, big time.  Their records will show who the true owners of Sabah are.

        Filipinos who live there do not steal your resources.  They work hard for their money.  And, by the way, they are mostly your beloved moslem sisters and brothers.  And you call them your brothers and sisters?  Wow, some brother you are.

        Be careful when you say “Philippines cannot take on Malaysia.”

      • AFPako

         Unggok ,  hindi mo kaya ang tutuong kayumangging Malayo. Bow to Malayo s before trying to prove your manhood to CHina.

      • Marlou Wang

         Mas lalo kang unggok, Negro AFPako. Mas malansa ka pa sa pinakamalansang isda.

      • Marlou Wang

        Oh really I am insane??? ha ha ha you are just revealing your moronic mentality. Malaysia is under British rule and UK is the motherland of USA. So who is going to side with the Philippines. NO ONE!  So you are so brave to say cannot take on your country.  Me, uneducated??? ha ha ha where is Malaysia in technology and science and math. NO WHERE!!! I suggest you better consult a psychiatrist because you imaginations has overpowered your gray matter.

  • Cal_Reznick

    How can a dispute unite? The President should just himself sit down with China leaders and discuss matters in a mature and professional manner. This way is definitely much better than creating some “back-door” talks confusions just like the other month with Trillanes.

  • Guest

    in the end when war erupts, asean will act as one. though divided today, asean principles cannot be compromised at all.

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