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Aquino: Asean can’t let any country claim entire South China Sea

/ 01:22 PM November 21, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR–With the forging of a much stronger Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) cooperation, President Benigno Aquino III reiterated that the Asean should not let any country–no matter how powerful–claim an entire sea as its own especially when it is resorting to force.

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“We believe that, as a rules-based Community, Asean should not allow any country, no matter how powerful, to claim an entire sea as its own and to use force or the threat thereof in asserting such a claim,” said Aquino during the plenary session of the Asean Summit on Saturday here.

The leaders of the 10-member Asean gathered at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center as Malaysia hosts the 27th semiannual summit.

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Aquino stressed anew that the western section of Spratly Islands or the Kalayaan Island Group is within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) provisions.

“We have not resolved, even amongst Asean members, the competing claims especially among the Spratlys. These improvements further complicate and increase the difficulty of coming to compromises that will be necessary to prevent further tension from rising,” he said.

READ: Asean official seeks way to resolve sea disputes

The leaders are set to launch an economic union of member-countries or the “Asean Economic Community” on the second day of the summit. It will be a formal entity by December 31.

“Therefore, moving forward, it is incumbent upon us to develop a post-2015 Asean Connectivity Agenda that articulates both our aspirations and the complexities we have to contend with,” said Aquino.

“These complexities include the recent developments in the sea to the west of my country, which our peoples know by many names. As I have stated many times in the past, our collective prosperity requires stability in the region. This has come under threat by unilateral actions such as the massive reclamation and building of structures on features in the Spratly islands, which have urgent and far-reaching implications to the region and the international community,” he said.

READ: Obama ups pressure on China

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Aquino said bringing the maritime dispute to a United Nations arbitral court displays the Philippines’ belief that a peaceful settlement can bring stability to the Asean region.

“Excellencies, Your Majesty, the Philippines has always adhered to the rule of law, and our decision to resort to arbitration reflects our belief that it is a transparent, friendly, durable, and peaceful dispute settlement mechanism that can bring stability to the region,” said Aquino.

Aquino said he welcomes the decision of the United Nations arbitral court and looks forward to the next round of hearing at the Hague.

“The Philippines remains committed to pursuing arbitration to its final conclusion, and will abide by its decisions,” he said.

The final ruling on the case may be issued in June next year.

READ: Key points of the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision in PH vs China case

The arbitral court will be hearing the merits of maritime dispute case from Nov. 24 to 30.

The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague recently ruled that it had jurisdiction over the Philippine case disproving the claim of China to almost the entire of South China Sea.

But China refuses to honor the proceedings as it believes that the UN court has no jurisdiction over the case.

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan are also claiming some parts of the South China Sea. CDG

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TAGS: Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Benigno Aquino III, South China Sea, Spratyls, Unclos, West Philippine Sea
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