The President was in the right forum when he said Southeast Asian countries must oppose the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea.
We share his expression of concern, made before world leaders who gathered in Jakarta for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, which was intelligibly directed at China whose coast guard launched a water cannon attack and a blockade to stop Philippine vessels from delivering supplies to the Filipino outpost at the Ayungin Shoal.
As the Philippine leader was addressing the world leaders, Chinese coast guard vessels were shadowing two Philippine vessels on a resupply mission at the Ayungin Shoal, a part of Philippine territory, but failed to disrupt it.
Beijing confirmed a day later its coast guard indeed shadowed the Philippine vessels because they entered the waters “without the permission from the Chinese government.”
But President Marcos was letter-perfect in his criticism of the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the south China Sea, where he stressed – and we endorse the idea – that “unilateral and assertive activities (in the area) would increase tensions in the region.”
“We are concerned over consistent actions that are in violation of obligations under international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, and under the Declaration of Code of Conduct,” President Marcos said.
He urged ASEAN members and their trading partners – including China – “to exercise self-restraint and refrain from unilateral and assertive activities that would increase tensions in the region, misunderstandings, and miscalculations in the South China Sea.”
Indonesian President and outgoing ASEAN chairman Joko Widodo did not name particular countries but also underscored the “importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.”
“We have a shared responsibility to not create new conflicts to not create new tensions, to not create new wars and at the same time, we are also responsible to ease high tensions, to soften hard conditions to create rooms for dialogue and to bridge existential differences,” Widodo said during the ASEAN-East Asia Summit, where Chinese Premier Li Qiang was present.
We cannot understand why China continues to shadow Philippine vessels in our own territory, which points to militarization of reclaimed features in the South China.
China’s behavior in the South China Sea raises questions.
But Mr. Marcos has been to the point when he said “The Philippines remains resolute towards the peaceful resolution of disputes. We continue to support freedom of navigation and overflight and the rules-based international order in the South China Sea.
“We are still committed to defending our sovereignty, our sovereign rights, and the maritime jurisdiction in accordance with UNCLOS.”
This is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty, an international agreement that establishes a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities.
As of June 2016, 167 countries, including China and the European Union are parties.