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Asean asked to do more to resolve SCS dispute

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) “should consider doing more” to address the South China Sea (SCS) dispute, including “taming the unlawful aggressive behavior of China,” former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in an emailed statement, referring to the ongoing 35th Asean Summit in Bangkok where the issue of a code of conduct (COC) within the organization was expected to be discussed.

President Duterte was expected to arrive on Friday night to attend Asean meetings set over the weekend before the summit concludes on Nov. 4.

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Del Rosario said that although “Asean has been criticized as being inefficient through its consensus-based decision-making, we believe that it can be an effective avenue in resolving the SCS dispute through the continuous hard work and political will of its members to do what is right.”

The former foreign affairs official warned the 10 Asean members to exercise “utmost vigilance” to ensure that the COC due in 2022 that lists the rules and responsibilities of the organization in relation to the SCS “is not utilized by Beijing (to) undermin(e) the (arbitral) award (to the Philippines) which is now an integral part of international law.”

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The worsening marine dispute between China and the Philippines prompted Manila to bring its case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration which, in 2016, affirmed that China’s “historical maritime rights” over contested areas in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea have no basis in international law.

Although the ruling favored mainly the Philippines, Del Rosario reminded Asean members that they still “have a shared interest in resolving the SCS dispute through Asean.”

“The practical reality is that for the COC to work, China in particular should participate in the COC in good faith. This point needs to be stated because of China’s record of duplicitous behavior: that is, claiming to abide by an agreement but doing otherwise on the ground,” he added.

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TAGS: Albert Del Rosario, ASEAN, China, sea dispute, South China Sea
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