MANILA, Philippines – Cambodia denied it vetoed Philippine efforts to include a historic ruling on the South China Sea in a joint statement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after a recent meeting.
Cambodia’s foreign ministry spokesman, Chum Sounry, said it was Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr who withdrew his own request for a mention of this tribunal ruling in the joint communiqué.
“The Filipino foreign minister himself decided to remove (it) and not to mention the ruling,” Chum Sounry said.
This ruling by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, struck down China’s expansive claim over the disputed waters.
Earlier, Cambodia was blamed for preventing ASEAN from reaching a consensus on the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.
Reuters reported that the deadlock at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting “was broken only when the Philippines withdrew its request to mention the ruling in the face of resolute objections from Cambodia, China’s closest ASEAN ally.”
Yasay chose ‘middle ground’
Yasay on Wednesday, July 27, confirmed that he “vigorously” pushed to include the Hague ruling in the ASEAN joint communiqué.
Yasay explained: “Again, this was a diplomatic tack that had to be made. But we knew that there was middle ground without compromising the rights of the Philippines and the award that was recognized by the arbitral tribunal.”
At the same time, however, Yasay said the Philippines “had never urged or asked the international community, particularly ASEAN, to support us in the merits of our case.”
He said the Philippines “simply asked” ASEAN “to recognize that the action we took in peacefully resolving our dispute with China was done in accordance with the principles of international law,” particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (READ: Yasay flip-flops on seeking ASEAN support for Hague ruling)
ASEAN ended up ignoring the Hague ruling and referring to common issues involving the South China Sea, such as China’s land reclamation activities. – Paterno Esmaquel II, with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com