Former DFA chief calls on ASEAN to push for a code of conduct ‘with specifics’

Published October 29, 2019, 5:17 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Roy Mabasa 

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario has called on the Philippines and the other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to work with Vietnam to push China to agree to a code of conduct (COC) “with specifics.”

Former Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario

Del Rosario was referring to the positions earlier laid down by Vietnam pertaining to the maritime dispute and the COC negotiations, namely on banning any new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), on clarifying maritime entitlements in accordance with international law, on the blocking of China’s proposal to ban military drills in the South China Sea with outside powers unless all signatories agree, and on the blocking of Beijing’s proposal to exclude foreign oil firms by limiting joint development deals to China and South East Asia.

Such specifics, according to the country’s former top diplomat, are all “areas of major importance which should be fully supported not only by the Philippines but by ASEAN as a whole.”

“An ASEAN consensus on the specifics, if achieved, will serve to demonstrate to the world that the 10 ASEAN states are a solid body that is willing to strongly uphold ASEAN centrality and not allow itself to be bullied and bribed,” Del Rosario said in his remarks at a forum in Makati City on Monday.

Vietnam will chair the ASEAN in 2020.

Of late, he noted that it would appear that China was adopting a “delaying strategy” in moving the COC forward in order to give itself time to complete its unlawful expansion and militarization strategy in the South China Sea.

Now that Beijing has practically completed its overall strategy, Del Rosario observed that China appears to want to forge ahead with the COC.

“To us, it means that we will need to exercise utmost vigilance in ensuring that the COC is not utilized by Beijing for the purpose of undermining the Award in The South China Sea Arbitration, which is now an integral part of international law and with which China is obligated to comply as a State Party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Del Rosario added.

On Monday, a ranking DFA official said the code of conduct will be discussed in the 35thASEAN Summit in Bangkok later this week but no “intensive negotiations” are expected to happen.