Del Rosario: PH, ASEAN should fully support Vietnam’s tough stance against China

By Roy Mabasa

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Wednesday said the Philippines and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should fully support Vietnam’s tough stance against China in negotiating a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)

In a statement, Del Rosario said Vietnam’s specific positions on banning any new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), clarifying maritime entitlements in accordance with the international law, the blocking of a proposal by China to ban military drills in the SCS with outside powers unless all signatories agree, and the blocking of Beijing’s proposal to exclude foreign oil firms by limiting joint development deals to China and Southeast Asia “are areas of major importance which should be fully supported not only by the Philippines but by ASEAN as a whole.”

“Clearly, it would be a constructive move to consult with Vietnam to give us an opportunity to share and appreciate each other’s views which could lead to an agreed plan of action that is beneficial not only to both countries but to others as well,” Del Rosario said.

The former DFA secretary pointed out that China appeared to be adopting a delaying strategy in moving the COC forward “in order to give itself time to complete the Chinese unlawful expansion and militarization strategy.”

“Now that they have practically completed their overall intended strategy, Beijing appears to want to forge ahead with the COC. What could it mean?” he said.

Del Rosario said this could mean that all relevant parties would need to exercise utmost vigilance in ensuring that the COC is not utilized by Beijing for the purpose of protecting what has been declared as being unlawful by the Hague court which is now an integral part of international law.

He insisted that an ASEAN consensus on the issues raised in Vietnam’s position will serve to demonstrate to the world that the 10 member-states of the regional bloc as a solid body, “willing to strongly uphold its centrality and not allow itself to be bullied and bribed.”

Del Rosario was the foreign affairs chief when the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China before the United Nations-backed Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague. On July 12, 2016, the Arbitration court ruled in favor of the Philippine petition.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have conflicting claims with China in certain parts of the South China Sea.