MANILA, Philippines – Maritime security remains a key concern in Southeast Asia, said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as part of the Philippines’ 54-man delegation to the 21st ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit.
“Any disruption of the sea lanes of communication and traditional maritime trading routes would affect freedom and safety of navigation and impede lawful commerce in our oceans and seas, making regional maritime collaboration imperative,” Del Rosario said at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
Territorial disputes over the South China Sea are expected to dominate discussions during the summit.
Read background: FAST FACTS on South China Sea, a decades-long source of tension
President Benigno Aquino III earlier said he will urge ASEAN countries to arrive at a consensus on the matter and draft a Code of Conduct that will be used to implement the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.
Since April, the Philippines has been engaged in a stand-off with China over the Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea. Out of the 10 member countries of the ASEAN, 4 countries are fighting for overlapping claims on the territory – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Del Rosario said the adoption of the ASEAN’s 6-point principles on the South China Sea underscores ASEAN’s capacity to resolve disputes peacefully.
Highlighting the Philippines’ commitment to maritime security, Del Rosario noted that the Philippines hosted the 3rd ASEAN Maritime Forum and the inaugural expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum in Manila, which brought together stakeholders from the 18 members of the East Asia Summit. – Rappler.com
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