PH seeks ASEAN support for S. China Sea action plan

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has urged fellow member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to back its proposed Triple Action Plan (TAP),  citing increasing “aggressive and provocative” actions in the South China Sea that threaten regional peace and prosperity.

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario presented the TAP – a Philippine initiative that seeks to reduce and manage tensions in the South China Sea until a settlement of disputes is obtained – at the 47th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) held on Friday, August 8, in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.

"Tensions in the South China Sea have worsened in the past few months and continue to deteriorate. All of us are seeing an increased pattern of aggressive behavior and provocative actions in the South China Sea, seriously threatening the peace, security, prosperity and stability in the region," Del Rosario told his ASEAN counterparts.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday, August 9, that the Philippine official explained to his ASEAN counterparts the rationale behind TAP – to provide for immediate, intermediate and  final approaches to address the provocative and destabilizing activities in the region without prejudice to existing territorial claims.

"On an immediate basis, ASEAN, in demonstration of its leadership, must call for a cessation of activities that escalate tension, pursuant to Article 5 of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC),"  del Rosario said before the 47th AMM plenary session.

He said that on an intermediate basis, “to manage further tension, ASEAN and China should continue urgently working for a full and effective implementation of the DOC and the expeditious conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC).”

"Finally, through arbitration, which is consistent with the DOC, there will be a clarification of entitlements to bring the disputes to a final and enduring resolution in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)," Del Rosario said.

The Philippines has a pending arbitration case against China over claims in the South China Sea.

The DFA said that during the plenary session, “The ASEAN Foreign Ministers likewise acknowledged the urgent need to address the tensions in the South China Sea in a manner that is peaceful and constructive, consistent with the DOC, and in accordance with international law.”

Philippine officials have previously said that least 3 Asean member-countries – Vietnam, Indonesia, and Brunei – support the TAP.

DFA Spokesman Charles Jose also said earlier that the Philippines believes its framework proposal would be beneficial to the entire region, including China, though the latter had stated "that it can build what it wants in the South China Sea" following the Philippine proposal.

The Philippines, for its part, announced on Friday, that its proposed moratorium on provocative actions in the South China Sea will not stop it from upgrading its airstrip on the Spratly Islands in the disputed waters. – Rappler.com