2 major PH-initiated agreements up for signing by Asean leaders
Two landmark agreements by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that were initiated by the Philippines more than a decade ago would be sealed next week under Manila’s chairmanship of the 10-nation bloc this year.
A centerpiece for the Nov. 13-14 Asean Summit in Manila, the second this year, would be the announcement of the start of substantive negotiations with China for a Code of Conduct (COC) that seeks to prevent the escalation of the maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
“We expect the leaders to announce the (start of the) negotiations but the actual start of the negotiations will probably happen sometime next year,” said Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar.
China, which claims nearly the entire South China Sea, four Asean members — Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — and Taiwan are locked in the maritime dispute.
The Philippines proposed a COC in 1997, but it was in 2002 when Manila successfully steered the adoption of a nonbinding Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) among the claimants.
The DOC called on the claimants to exercise “self-restraint” but since it was not binding, it did not stop China from occupying islets and building man-made islands that are now fortified military outposts.
“It has been like 15 years (since the DOC). It took that long but it just shows you the amount of effort put into actually realizing the Code of Conduct,” Bolivar said.
“Now we have the outline, the basis for the negotiations so that we can start negotiating the actual Code of Conduct,” he added.
It again falls upon the Philippines to start the negotiations next year when it assumes the role of country coordinator for the Asean-China Summit.
“As the country coordinator for Asean-China, the Philippines will take a lead role in steering the negotiation for the COC,” Bolivar said.
The second major agreement to be announced is the formal pledge by all Asean members to protect workers from neighboring countries under the Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, which would be signed on Nov. 13.
“One of the key features of the Asean Consensus is for the host country to afford the same level of protection to migrant workers as they do to their own citizens in terms of labor contracts, labor standards, access to legal representation especially access to consular representation,” Bolivar said.
“This is a centerpiece of our chairmanship and we are actually quite pleased that we have come full circle,” he added.
The Philippines, a major source of migrant workers in the region and worldwide, initiated the agreement when it last chaired the Asean in 2007.
It took 10 years to negotiate the agreement.
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