Asean summit in SG to discuss South China Sea peace and security – DFA
Peace and security in the South China Sea would be tackled at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Singapore later this month as Beijing continues its aggressive claims in the disputed waterway, said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“Yes. Definitely the South China Sea is always a regular feature of our discussions,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Ma. Hellen De La Vega said in a palace briefing on Friday.
Leaders of the 10-member states of the Asean would meet in Singapore for the 32nd Asean Summit on April 27 to 28.
During the Asean 31st Summit in Manila in November, the regional bloc reiterated its call for non-militarization and self-restraint in the South China Sea amid Beijing’s reclamation activities and apparent arming of artificial islands in the disputed waters.
The Philippines, De La Vega said, would be the country coordinator of Asean-China dialogue relations starting August 2018.
“And one special — if I could just mention is because come August, we will be taking the country coordinatorship of the dialogue with China. So talagang kailangan din nating i-discuss ‘yan,” De La Vega said.
Photos obtained by the Inquirer showed that China is almost finished transforming seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly islands into island fortresses.
Chinese military planes have also been photographed on Panganiban Reef, marking the first reported presence of this type of aircraft in Philippine territory in the South China Sea and raising the prospect that China will base warplanes there.
De La vega said negotiations on the South China Sea dispute should begin with the more simple issues.
“So what we can say at this stage is that ang so far na napag-usapan natin is that we will begin with the issues na mas madaling pag-usapan and then moving on to the more difficult ones,” she said.
Since assuming office in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen to seek dialogue with China rather than to press Beijing over the UN ruling. /muf
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