Jul 042013

The Philippine government on Thursday described as a “forward step” China’s decision to discuss a code of conduct on the South China Sea with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.

At a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Philippines is ready to discuss its draft of the code with Chinese officials to try to diffuse tension at the South China Sea.

“We have already drafted the code of conduct, and we have asked them to discuss it with us. China has already said that they are discussing with us, so this is a step in the right direction,” Lacierda said.

The President’s spokesperson refused to “speculate” when asked if the Philippine government thinks China is only using talks on the code as a delaying tactic.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country has agreed to hold “official consultations” on a proposed code of conduct on the South China Sea with Southeast Asian nations.

Sea dispute

China is asserting its historial claim on the entire South China Sea.

The Philippines, however, is claiming its ownership of some parts of the South China Sea—which it calls the West Philippine Sea—under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims over parts of the South China Sea. 

Lacierda said that the Philippines will continue to seek international arbitration on its territorial dispute with China while talks on the sea code are ongoing.

“We have used the proper approaches, rules-based. We are using the right process, arbitration. We are using the proper venue, the UNCLOS arbitrary tribunal to settle all the issues on these disputes. We have used the approach that is acceptable to the community of nations,” the President’s spokesperson said. 

Last January, the Philippines brought its territorial dispute with China before a United Nations tribunal, asking Beijing “to desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the UNCLOS. —KG, GMA News

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