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Koko urges ‘Asean way’ for maritime tension

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 05:00 AM January 31, 2021

A China Coast Guard ship tries to drive away a Filipino fishing boat by blocking its path on its way to one of the sandbars near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea. PHOTO FROM LARRY HUGO

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III urged the executive branch on Saturday to seek the immediate intervention of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to defuse the tension in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), in the wake of the passage of a new coast guard law by China.

Pimentel, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) can activate its “hotline” with China and call on its government to defer the enforcement of the new Coast Guard law on the Philippines’ claimed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

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“We can use this diplomatic channel, but in the meantime should not be made public as we are asking China not to enforce this new law [in the WPS] where the tension is already high,” he said after China’s parliament on Jan. 22 created a new law that allows its coast guard to open fire on marine and air vessels deemed to be infringing on Beijing’s disputed territorial claims.

Pimentel and a number of senators have aired their “grave concern” over the new law, saying this might further inflame the already volatile situation in the region.

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“There is sufficient basis for the expression of concern, as this is not a pleasant development in the WPS, where the standing policy for nations is to not heighten the tension in the meantime that it cannot be defused,” he said.

Pimentel said the DFA must now urge Asean to hasten the approval of the code of conduct in the disputed territories in the WPS, which China has purportedly accepted.

He said his committee would seek a briefing behind closed doors with the DFA and government think-tank on the measures the country has been undertaking.

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TAGS: ASEAN, China, China Coast Guard law, Senator Pimentel, West Philippine Sea
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