Philippines to press 'gas pedal' vs sea tensions
MANILA, Philippines – Saying it wants to be a “leader” in the region, the Philippines said its proposed moratorium on sea tensions is like pressing the “gas pedal” to ensure peace in the South China Sea.
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose, however, said the moratorium that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario discussed on Monday, June 16, is “not really a new proposal.”
He said it falls under an existing landmark document – the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
Signed in 2002, this document says, among others, that claimant states should “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”
Instead of creating a document apart from the DOC, Jose said the proposed moratorium is a way to “reinvigorate” the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to achieve the following objectives:
To fully and effectively implement the DOC; and
To quickly conclude a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea to replace the 12-year-old, non-binding DOC
Strong message to China
“Gusto nating maging lider, 'no, para mabilisan,” Jose said in a media conference. (We want to be a leader to speed things up.)
The new elements in the proposed moratorium, he added, include the following:
To consult the ASEAN, especially the South China Sea's claimant states; and
To “try to build consensus” to manage sea tensions
When asked how different this will be from previous efforts under the DOC, Jose said, “Eh kailangan lang talaga parang tapakan mo 'yung gas pedal para lalong bumilis.” (Maybe we need to press the gas pedal to make things quicker.)
By doing this, Jose said the Philippines wants to tell China that their recent actions “raise tension in the area and... are in violation of the DOC.”
He singled out China's reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea, parts of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines. The Philippines has protested these activities.
On a regional scale, Jose added, China should know that “ASEAN considers the South China Sea issue as very important, and we are all stakeholders in this, so we want to manage the tensions very well, and try to de-escalate the existing tension.”
'Before it gets out of hand'
Earlier on Monday, Del Rosario said on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that the Philippines wants to propose “within the year” a moratorium on South China Sea tensions.
He said the moratorium should involve the ASEAN, particularly the South China Sea's claimant states, as the region works on a COC.
"We ought to maybe consider getting together and saying, 'Let's freeze all activities which escalate tension,'” Del Rosario said.
He added: “Let's call for a moratorium in terms of activities that escalate tension. Let's do that while we work on an expeditious conclusion of the COC and effective and full implementation of the COC... I would like to initiate it, and I think it's a reasonable approach.”
Del Rosario said the moratorium is based on the suggestion of Danny Russel, the top US diplomat on East Asia.
“I think we would use the international community to step up and to say that we need to manage the tensions in the South China Sea before it gets out of hand,” the Philippines' top diplomat said. – Rappler.com