PH touts ASEAN to uphold UNCLOS, speed up Code of Conduct in the South China Sea

Published December 17, 2020, 5:21 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The Philippines has called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states to uphold the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) as the legal framework under which all ocean activities are regulated and reaffirmed its commitment to achieving the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs and ASEAN-Philippines Director-General Junever Mahilum-West made this call at the 10th ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF) and the 8th Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) held in a digital format early this week.

“We urge the members of the AMF and the EAMF to work towards fulfilling their obligations under the 1982 UNCLOS for the peace, stability, and prosperity of our region,” Mahilum-West said in her remarks.

In the series of meetings, she highlighted Philippine priorities in the area of maritime governance and cooperation, including the establishment of the National Coast Watch Council to strengthen interagency coordination on maritime affairs.

The DFA official also cited the country’s Trilateral Cooperation Arrangement with Indonesia and Malaysia to combat transnational maritime crimes in the vast Sulu-Sulawesi Sea.

On the Code of Conduct, Mahilum-West maintained that the document should be crafted in accordance with international law, particularly with the 1982 UNCLOS.

Last month, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. suggested that ASEAN should finalize the Code of Conduct, a document that would define the responsibilities or proper behavior of countries with conflicting claims in the South China Sea.

Locsin said the COC negotiation is “ball dribbling” under the COVID-19 pandemic when all “expensive travels and talks” stopped.