Aquino sticks to multilateral mode to resolve Spratlys row
President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday called on countries involved in territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to approach the matter multilaterally through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Mr. Aquino made the remark after he was told that China and Vietnam, an Asean member, had entered into a bilateral agreement in connection with maritime issues in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
China calls the body of water South China Sea while Vietnam calls it the East Vietnam Sea.
“Well, we have committed to Asean centrality on these issues. So at the minimum, it should be also with the other countries in dispute,” the President said at a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
“Our position is (that) a multilateral solution is best in that a dispute not settled wholly will not be a settlement,” Mr. Aquino added.
China and Vietnam—along with Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia—have competing claims on parts of the West Philippine Sea and potentially rich oil and gas finds.
The two countries have signed an agreement aimed at resolving bitter maritime disputes that drove relations between the communist neighbors to their lowest level in years, China’s state media reported on Wednesday.
The official Xinhua News Agency said a six-point agreement was signed on Tuesday by China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and his Vietnamese counterpart, Ho Xuan Son.
It took place during a visit by Vietnam’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, who held talks with China’s Communist Party boss, President Hu Jintao.
The agreement calls for twice yearly meetings, and for a hotline to be set up to deal with emergencies.
“The two countries should remain committed to friendly consultations in order to properly handle maritime issues and make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation,” Xinhua quoted the agreement as saying.
It said both sides “should explore interim and temporary solutions” while seeking a long-term resolution.
The agreement is the latest step in efforts by the countries to improve ties. Hanoi clamped down in August on anti-China protests, while a tentative agreement between China and other Asean nations was reached at a regional security meeting in July in Indonesia. With a report from AP