PH seeks ASEAN partners’ support for case vs China

Natashya Gutierrez

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In Myanmar, President Benigno Aquino III reiterates the importance of pursuing a peaceful resolution to the maritime dispute in various ASEAN-related summits, and is adamant about pushing for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea

SEEKING SUPPORT. President Benigno Aquino III seeks support from ASEAN dialogue partners for Manila's arbitral case against China. Malacañang Photo Bureau

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – President Benigno Aquino III repeatedly sought support from ASEAN’s dialogue partners for the Philippines’ case against China during the 25th ASEAN Summit here.

On Wednesday, November 12, Aquino reiterated the importance of pursuing a peaceful resolution to the maritime dispute in various ASEAN-related summits, including the ASEAN-India Summit, ASEAN-Japan Summit and the ASEAN-United Nations (UN) Summit.

At the ASEAN-India Summit, Aquino described the recently concluded Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Arbitration between India and Bangladesh as “a good example.” He said this shows that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea “provide the most rational, just and right mechanism for countries to find harmony and understanding in the face of their differences.”

He also asked for the backing of India and other UN member nations for the country’s proposal “to reduce the rising level of tensions,” which it presented at the UN General Assembly in October. (READ: At ASEAN, no specifics from Aquino on China)

Aquino, at the ASEAN-Japan Summit, expressed support for Japan’s recommendations on how to foster respect and trust in the region, specifically principles that say “claims have to be faithfully made in light of international law;” that “parties should not resort to force or coercion;” and that “disputes must be resolved through peaceful means.”

In both the ASEAN-Japan Summit and the ASEAN-UN Summit, he also pushed for the early conclusion of a “legally-binding” Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. He also encouraged other states to use the UN’s arbitrational mechanism to settle its maritime disputes.

He did not, however, mention any specifics on developments in China’s aggression against the Philippines in the area, including the sighting of two Chinese hydrographic ships in the potentially oil-rich Recto (Reed) Bank. A day earlier, Aquino met with Chinese President Xi JinPing, a meeting the Palace described as a “warm conversation.”

It is Aquino’s first ASEAN Summit since the Philippines submitted a memorial to a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal over a maritime dispute with China. 

The memorial, a nearly 4,000-page document, was submitted by the Philippines on March 29 in a bid to end what it considered decades of bullying by China. China however has refused to acknowledge the designated arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the case. 

Other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei are also claimants in the disputed area. –

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.