Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has urged the government to work in tandem with Vietnam as strategy towards eventual adoption of a Code of Conduct in the disputed South China Sea, major part of which is being claimed by China as part of its territory under its so-called “Nine-Dash Line.”
“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, replying to a question on what he believed should be the Philippine strategy regarding a COC in the South China Sea.
The former top diplomat made the suggestion after noting “China was 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?” Del Rosario asked.
He said the Philippine government should “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 arbitral tribunal which is now an integral part of international law.”
He agreed that Vietnam’s specific positions on banning any new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), clarifying maritime entitlements in accordance with 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 all areas of major importance which should be fully supported not only by the Philippines but by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a whole.
“An Asean consensus on the aforementioned specifics, if achieved, will serve to demonstrate to the world that the 10 Asean states as a solid body are willing to strongly uphold its centrality and not allow itself to be bullied and bribed,” Del Rosario stressed.
Recent reports about negotiations for a new pact between China and Asean aimed at easing tensions in the South China Sea are expected to toughed after Vietnam vowed s to push for provisions that may not be acceptable to Beijing.
Reports about negotiating draft of the Asean Code of Conduct indicated that Hanoi wanted the pact to disallow many of the actions China has carried out across the hotly contested waterway in recent years, including artificial island building, blockades and offensive weaponry such as missile deployments.
The draft also reportedly shows that Hanoi is pushing for a ban on any new Air Defence Identification Zone – something Beijing unilaterally announced over the East China Sea in 2013.
Hanoi is also reportedly demanding states to clarify their maritime claims in the vital trade route according to international law—an apparent attempt to shatter the controversial “nine-dash line” by which China claims and patrols much of the South China Sea.