Posts Tagged ‘code of conduct’

South China Sea: Philippines seeks gentleman’s agreement on sea code

May 20, 2017

Newly appointed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made this observation on Friday after the ASEAN and China finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct (COC), despite regional skepticism over Beijing’s commitment to rules that can restrain its maritime ambitions. File

 

MANILA, Philippines – With no legally binding mechanism to enforce any deal on the South China Sea dispute, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) may, in the meantime, settle for a “gentleman’s agreement” to prevent war or at least keep the situation in the region stable.

Newly appointed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made this observation on Friday after the ASEAN and China finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct (COC), despite regional skepticism over Beijing’s commitment to rules that can restrain its maritime ambitions.

“Many countries want it to be legally binding. But what I’m saying is, let’s start with it being binding, gentleman’s agreement,” Cayetano said, referring to the absence in the draft framework of a clause specifying that a code should be legally binding.

“We have a community of nations that signed it,” he added.

He explained that legally binding means there is a court or tribunal to which parties can turn if another party reneges on the agreement.

“So, let me say this: definitely, it should be binding. Now, the question is, if it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that don’t comply, will they respect that court? We’re all trying to avoid not only war, but instability,” Cayetano told reporters during a visit to the DFA Office of Consular Affairs on Macapagal Avenue on his first day as DFA chief. He was replying to a question on whether Manila should insist on a legally binding COC.

He admitted there is a need for a mechanism that would help resolve issues if some parties fail or refuse to comply with the code.

“I’m telling you the practical reality of negotiations in international agreement. So, do most or all of the countries want it to be legally binding? Yes. But will the language include that? We don’t know. Because if one or two do not approve of that, they don’t believe that there can be an independent court, will we go for nothing, no Code of Conduct?” Cayetano said. “Or will we agree to a code of conduct that will be enforced only by the community of nations who signed it?” he said.

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Southeast Asian nations with claims in the South China Sea have long wanted to sign China up to a legally binding and enforceable code.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the resource-rich waters, aside from China and the Philippines.

Arbitral ruling

In July last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea in a case filed against Beijing by the previous Aquino administration.

A code of conduct is the key objective of a 2002 Declaration on Conduct, large parts of which China has ignored, particularly a commitment not to occupy or reclaim uninhabited features.

China has piled sand upon reefs and other land features to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago. China has also been transforming three of the reefs into what experts believe could be forward operating bases.

President Duterte on Friday described them as “some kind of armed garrison.”

China has built islands by reclamation of sand and coral and has militarized them for People’s Liberationa Army (PLA) use. Seen here, Chinese structures and an airstrip on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are shown from the Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane of the Philippine Air Force during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017. Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defense officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Some ASEAN diplomats fear China’s sudden interest in completing the code could be a strategy to buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when US policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

One ASEAN diplomat said the latest draft did not mention any dispute settlement mechanism or sanctions for violations, but focused mostly on managing tension and building trust.

“We are very realistic and practical,” said the source who declined to be identified. “We wanted first to pick the low hanging fruit. If we went straight to the contentious issues, we would not get to where we are now.”

The framework represented progress, but expectations should be realistic, said Jay Batongbacal, an expert on the South China Sea issue. “Given it’s been 15 years to get to a draft, I’m not really holding my breath,” he added.

What green light?

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, rebutted yesterday the claims of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that President Duterte had given a green light to China’s further reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Abella explained Duterte maintains a two-track approach to keep a stable relationship with China.

“One, to grow our healthy economic, trade and investment relationships, and to ensure that our arbitral rights in the West Philippine Sea are not compromised, more so now through the newly established bilateral consultation mechanism to manage disputes in the area,” he said.

“The Philippines engaged (China) in a frank discussion on possible oil explorations in the WPS,” Abella said in a separate statement yesterday.

“President Duterte was forthright about its economic rights awarded by the Arbitral Court in The Hague, a claim the Chinese leader said they would vigorously contest given their historic claims to the area,” he added.

He stressed the President would never stop exploring peaceful ways of resolving the country’s maritime dispute with China.

“Given this complexity, both parties agreed to pursue a more peaceful resolution to the matter that satisfies both our sovereign and economic rights,” he added.

Abella echoed Duterte’s chastising the United States for not directly confronting China over its island building activities in the West Philippine Sea.  He said the US chose to remain on the sidelines despite having in its possession satellite images of Chinese activities in disputed waters.

“With all due respect to the Senior Associate Justice, Chinese island-building and military deployment activities on certain features in the West Philippine Sea have been ongoing for some years now,” Abella added.

“The disputes in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea are not the sum total of our relations with China, but we are cognizant of the warmer relationships we have in the region.”

Old issue

Duterte on Friday took Carpio and former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario to task for criticizing him over his decision to cozy up to China and separate from the US, a long-time ally.

He said Carpio and Del Rosario have had no basis to claim that he had totally disregarded the arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines’ position.

It was in the same remarks – delivered at the Philippine Coast Guard’s 333rd anniversary celebration in Davao City – that Duterte revealed that China’s President Xi Jinping had threatened war if the Philippines would force the issue of the arbitration ruling.

A senior security official, who declined to be named, said China was just bluffing. “China could just be exploiting our weaknesses using all elements within its national power,” he said.

“This is a very difficult issue but if push comes to shove, let it be known to all that we are determined, as protector of the people and state, to defend what is ours,” another official said.

Last Thursday, Carpio said Duterte had practically allowed China to continue its reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea when he did not mention the territorial dispute in his ASEAN chairman’s statement.

“In 2017 we were the host (of the ASEAN Summit), the President was responsible for the chairman’s statement (and made) no mention of reclamation or militarization. For the Chinese this is a green light,” Carpio said.

Reports said that ASEAN leaders revised the final statement and removed any reference to the arbitration ruling. The revision reportedly happened after intense debates and lobbying among ASEAN leaders.

Carpio was a member of the country’s legal team that argued the Philippines’ case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The magistrate said even the 2016 chairman’s statement in Cambodia mentioned China’s land reclamation activities.

“That statement was very good despite the fact that we were not happy. It was strong, it mentioned land reclamation, expressing concern about land reclamation, about land militarization. It was directed at China – do not reclaim further – especially Scarborough Shoal,” he said.

Carpio earlier cautioned that it would be “game over” for the Philippines if China succeeds in reclaiming Panatag or Scarborough Shoal. – With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude 

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/21/1701969/philippines-seeks-gentlemans-agreement-sea-code

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China is preparing for the reclamation and construction on Scarborough Shoal

FILE — In this Dec. 24, 2015, photo, provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac, a Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Duterte: China warned the Philippines of war over South China Sea

May 19, 2017
Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2017 07:21 PM | Updated as of May 19 2017 07:48 PM

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. Ng Han Guan, Reuters (FILE)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday bared that China warned his administration of war if Manila would insist on its ownership of the disputed South China Sea.

Duterte said the Chinese side issued the warning after he expressed the Philippines’ intent to drill oil in the resource-rich waters.

It was unclear who issued the warning and when.

But Duterte said he asserted the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The president held bilateral talks with Xi on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation last week.

“I said, Mr. Xi Jinping, I will insist that it is ours and we will drill oil,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.

“Sinabi ko talaga harap-harapan, that is ours and we intend to drill oil there. My view is I can drill the oil. Ang sagot sa akin, ‘Well we are friends. We don’t want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain warm relationship, but if you force the issue we will go to war.’”

China’s military is one of the world’s most powerful.

Duterte made this revelation just as representatives from the two sides met Friday in Guiyang, China for inaugural bilateral discussions on the dispute.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have also finished drafting the framework for the code of conduct in the South China Sea.

The binding code of conduct, which shall replace the non-binding 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, will lay down the rules for all claimant states.

Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has pursued warmer ties with Beijing despite the sea dispute, aiming to boost economic ties with one of the world’s largest economies.

At his debut hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the concluding leaders’ statement was silent on China’s militarization and island-building activities in the South China Sea.

The statement also did not mention the Philippines’ landmark arbitral victory over China, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping nine-dash line claim over the waters.

Four ASEAN members- the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei- have partial claims in the resource-rich waters, overlapping with China’s sweeping claims.

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Philippines Calls for ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ Between ASEAN, China on Sea Code — “No need for a legally binding contract.”

May 19, 2017

MANILA — Southeast Asian nations and China should start with a “gentleman’s agreement” on the busy South China Sea waterway because no mechanism exists to legally enforce any deal, the Philippine foreign minister said on Friday.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China on Thursday finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct, despite regional scepticism whether Beijing will commit to rules likely to restrain its maritime ambitions.

Southeast Asian nations with claims in the South China Sea have long wanted to sign China up to a legally binding and enforceable code. It was unclear if that was mentioned in the framework draft, which has not been made public.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano played down the importance of a legally binding contract.

“If it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that do not comply, will they respect that court?” he asked reporters.

“Let’s start with it being binding, gentlemen’s agreement. We have a community of nations that signed it.”

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Click http://tmsnrt.rs/2qyBNpf for graphic on overlapping claims in the South China Sea

Last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, in a case filed on maritime boundaries filed by the previous Philippine government in 2013.

A code of conduct is the key objective of a 2002 Declaration on Conduct, large parts of which China has ignored, particularly a commitment not to occupy or reclaim uninhabited features.

China has piled sand upon reefs to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago. China has unfinished business there and has been transforming three of the reefs into what experts believe could be forward operating bases.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday described them as “some kind of armed garrison.”

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defense officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Some ASEAN diplomats fear China’s sudden interest in completing it could be a strategy to buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when U.S. policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

One ASEAN diplomat said the latest draft did not mention any dispute settlement mechanism or sanctions for violations, but focused mostly on managing tension and building trust.

“We are very realistic and practical,” said the source, who declined to be identified. “We wanted first to pick the low hanging fruit. If we went straight to the contentious issues, we would not get to where we are now.”

The framework represented progress, but expectations should be realistic, said Jay Batongbacal, a Philippine academic and expert on the South China Sea.

“Given it’s been 15 years to get to a draft, I’m not really holding my breath,” he added.

Click http://tmsnrt.rs/2pSNmZq for graphic on Turf war on the South China Sea

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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The Associated Press

BEIJING  — China and the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations have agreed on the rough outline of a legally binding code of conduct designed to prevent clashes in the strategic South China Sea, officials said.

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Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin was quoted in state media Friday as saying the agreement laid a “solid foundation” for further negotiations.
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“All parties have vowed to continue to constructively advance the negotiations” toward the early conclusion of the code of conduct, Liu was quoted as telling Xinhua News Agency following Thursday’s meeting in the southern Chinese city of Guiyang.
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The Philippines welcomed the finalization of the draft of the framework. It contains elements that the parties agreed upon and will be presented to Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers in August for consideration, the statement from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said.
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Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Chee Wee Kiong said the sides hoped that would produce needed “political support” from the ministers.
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No details were given and Liu said the text of the framework agreement would remain secret for now. No date was given for the adoption of a full code of conduct.
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Also Friday, Liu and the Philippines ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago “Chito” Santa Romana were to meet separately to discuss an agenda for future talks on their dispute over islands and waters in the eastern portion of the South China Sea.
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China was enraged by a ruling last year from a Hague tribunal invalidating most of its South China Sea claims in a case brought by the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has downplayed that ruling as part of his push for a broad improvement in relations between the sides since taking office in June that has cast a shadow over Manila’s ties to its longtime ally, the United States.
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Despite the thaw in relations, China protested a visit last month by Manila’s defense and military chiefs to a disputed island in the South China Sea. The Philippine government maintained that it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades.
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At a briefing in Beijing earlier this week, Romana said the sides had “turned a new page” on dealing with their South China Sea issues.
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“Generally, the situation has eased in terms of tensions between the Philippines and China,” he said, citing regained access by Philippine fishermen to Scarborough Shoal after years of being blocked by Chinese ships.
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“It does not mean the differences have disappeared. As (Duterte) told President Xi (Jinping), there will still be problems, but we are willing to discuss the issues with the Chinese side and he is optimistic that the bilateral negotiations and bilateral dialogue is the way to go,” Romana said.
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China and the members of ASEAN committed 15 years ago to signing a code of conduct, but progress has been slow amid disputes over the body of water that China claims virtually in its entirety.
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In the absence of such an agreement, they have followed a separate document called the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC, which among other provisions, commits the parties to “exploring ways for building trust and confidence … on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”
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Along with the Philippines, ASEAN members Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also maintain claims in the South China Sea that overlap with those of China and Taiwan.
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An estimated $5 trillion in global trade annually passes through the South China Sea, which is also home to rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other natural resources.
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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: Japan, New Zealand Support International Law, Arbitral Ruling, Angering China

May 19, 2017
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, right, accompanied by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, reviews an honor guard prior to their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. AP/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool
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MANILA, Philippines — Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English have expressed concern over the disputed South China Sea following their meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday.

In their joint statement released after the meeting, the two leaders called on concerned parties to settle disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and in light of the award issued by an international arbitral tribunal.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued the award invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters. The court also ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS for building artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

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The Philippines, under the Duterte administration, has decided to set aside the ruling in settling the dispute with China.

‘Inopportune’

Abe and English called for the early finalization of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“They called on all parties to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight and ensure unimpeded trade while avoiding provocative actions that could increase tensions and erode regional trust and confidence, including land reclamation, building of outposts, construction and militarisation,” the joint statement read.

Beijing, however, finds the statement of Japan and New Zealand “rather inopportune.”

“Given all these, Japan still exerts itself in every possible way to stir up trouble and exaggerate what it called ‘the tense situation’ which does not exist at all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing Thursday.

Hua stressed that the arbitration case on the South China Sea has “already been turned over as a page of history.”

Philippine-China bilateral talks

Beijing urged Tokyo to adjust its mindset for mutual trust between regional countries and for peace and stability in the region.

“We cannot help but wondering: what does Japan really want? Peace and stability in the South China Sea? Or is it exactly peace and stability in the South China Sea as well as improving relations between China and the Philippines and other ASEAN member states that worry Japan so much?” Hua said.

The Philippines and China are set to hold the inaugural meeting of their bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea dispute on Friday.

“The two sides expect to have friendly exchanges during this meeting on the relevant maritime issue and properly manage disputes through bilateral dialogues so as to create favorable conditions for the final settlement of the relevant dispute and ensure a good atmosphere for the sound and steady development of bilateral ties and the smooth progress of practical cooperation in various fields,” the spokesperson said.

RELATED: China expects to ‘disperse suspicion’ in planned talks with Philippines

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/19/1701542/japan-new-zealand-underscore-arbitral-ruling-south-china-sea-angering

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

China, ASEAN agree on framework for South China Sea code of conduct

May 18, 2017

China and Southeast Asian countries agreed on Thursday to a framework for a long-mooted code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea, China’s foreign ministry said, as both sides step up efforts to ease tension in the strategic waterway.

China and the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had been hoping to this year agree on the framework, 15 years after committing to draft it.

Some ASEAN diplomats have expressed concern about whether China is being sincere, or whether ASEAN has enough leverage to get China to commit to a set of rules.

Some Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the United States, have expressed concern at what they see as China’s militarization of the South China Sea, including building air strips on man-made islands.

After a meeting between Chinese and ASEAN officials in the Chinese city of Guiyang, China’s foreign ministry said the framework had been agreed upon, although it gave no details of its contents.

The talks had been candid and deep and made positive achievements, it added in a statement.

All parties “uphold using the framework of regional rules to manage and control disputes, to deepen practical maritime cooperation, to promote consultation on the code and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea”, it added.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhemin, in comments carried on state television, said the framework was comprehensive and took into account the concerns of all sides.

But he called on others to stay out, apparently a coded message to the United States.

“We hope that our consultations on the code are not subject to any outside interference,” Liu said.

The permanent secretary of Singapore’s foreign ministry, Chee Wee Kiong, said what he called a “draft” framework would be submitted to a meeting between the foreign ministers of China and the ASEAN states in August in the Philippines.

“We hope to continue the positive momentum of consultation and make steady progress toward a substantive CoC based on consensus as directed by our leaders,” Chee said, in remarks also shown on Chinese state television, referring to the code of conduct.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Negotiators from China and ASEAN met in Indonesia and Cambodia in the last few months to try to reach a final draft, which could be approved ahead of the August meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in the Philippines.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)

South China Sea: Philippine President Duterte Expect Code of Conduct Agreement With China, Next Week

May 16, 2017
“There will be a code of conduct. I will not speculate on how or rather the dimension of the agreement. It has to be worked out. So I don’t want to speculate,” the President said upon his arrival at the Davao International Airport before dawn yesterday from China. Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP, File

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – For years an elusive target for nations with conflicting claims in the South China Sea, a code of conduct for managing the dispute is expected to be ready on May 19 when the China-led Bilateral Consultation Mechanism convenes for the first time, President Duterte said yesterday.

“There will be a code of conduct. I will not speculate on how or rather the dimension of the agreement. It has to be worked out. So I don’t want to speculate,” the President said upon his arrival at the Davao International Airport before dawn yesterday from China.

The President was in Cambodia and Hong Kong before his China visit.

The President stressed that both China and the Philippines are looking forward to a bilateral mechanism for settling the dispute over areas in the South China Sea.

The Philippines refers to the side of the disputed waters within its exclusive economic zone as West Philippine Sea.

Other claimants in the South China Sea aside from the Philippines and China are Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan. China claims almost the entire South China Sea through which 40 percent of world trade passes.

Many of the disputed areas were uninhabitable land features on which the Chinese built fortresses with airstrips and bristling with sophisticated weapons system.

“We look forward to the bilateral meeting on the South China Sea. This is one step forward in peacefully managing disputes,” the President said.

The President emphasized that the forging of deals with China amounting to billions of dollars under the latter’s One Belt One Road development strategy would not influence – much less undermine – the Philippines’ position in next week’s bilateral talks on the South China Sea issue.

He said the government does not have to take extra measures to ensure the sovereignty of the country is not compromised.

“It is not really the safety measure that you are talking about. The safety measure is that when you avoid trouble, we avoid violence and we avoid war because frankly, we cannot afford it and China cannot afford it also at this time. Masisira tayong dalawa (We’ll both lose),” the President further said.

While acknowledging there is indeed a dispute with China over territories, Duterte said he and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping had agreed there is a proper time to raise the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling on the issue.

The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague invalidated China’s massive claims in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the Philippines’ maritime entitlements. Beijing, however, made it clear it would not comply with the ruling.

“There is a time for me to ask about the arbitral ruling but it is not now. We have to go into the mechanics of… We have to have an agenda, the structure of the meeting and… how to present the case to them first because we agreed to talk, to have a dialogue,” the President pointed out.

“Maybe at some future time these things will crop up. And you cannot avoid it because there is the arbitral ruling,” he added.

“In the end it would always be legal. The arbitral ruling rendered by an organ of the United Nations will always be there,” he said.

The previous Aquino administration filed a case against Beijing in 2013 with the arbitral tribunal in response to China’s escalation of island building activities in the West Philippine Sea.

The filing of the case came a year after the Chinese took control of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales after a standoff with the Philippine Navy. Chinese maritime surveillance vessels arrived in the area to rescue Chinese poachers arrested by the Philippine Navy earlier.

The poachers were allowed to leave with their illegal cargo of endangered corals, giant clams and baby sharks.

Fair and balanced

Meanwhile, President Duterte said he still has to study the suggestion of former speaker Jose de Venecia that the Philippines conduct joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea with China and Vietnam, as he stressed any deal would have to be “fair and balanced.”

De Venecia, recently named special envoy for intercultural dialogue, raised the idea at the Belt and Road Forum in China last Sunday.

He said the three countries should “discard occasional enmity and exaggerated pride” and consider conducting a three-way energy exploration in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

He expressed belief his suggestion, if adopted, could promote peace and development in the area.

Duterte said De Venecia’s proposal should be examined to ensure that the Philippines would not end up shortchanged.

“Let us see the wherewithals. Tingnan muna kung ’di ba ako malugi (Let’s see if we will not be shortchanged)? It has to be fair and it has to be balanced,” the President said. “So if we can get something there with no hassle at all, why not?”

A Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking signed by the Arroyo administration with China drew flak from various sectors, which saw the deal as tantamount to giving Beijing unbridled access to the Philippines’ maritime territory. – With Alexis Romero

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/17/1700690/rody-expects-china-nod-sea-code-conduct

Indonesia seeks assurances from China on code of conduct for South China Sea

May 15, 2017

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi ahead of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on May 13, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Indonesia has asked China to make good on its promise to conclude by mid-year the ongoing negotiations on a framework for a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea (SCS), as Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi met her counterpart Wang Yi in the Chinese capital.

Retno met Wang in Beijing on Saturday (May 13) to discuss various issues of common concern, including the SCS debate, wherein Indonesia is not a claimant but acts as an honest broker.

“One of the issues that will definitely be tabled by the foreign ministers is what to do next to expedite the process of the post-COC framework negotiations,” ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said.

Asean and China are currently in the final stages of finalising a framework for a COC, an instrument that aims to prevent open conflict in the disputed waters.

Negotiations over the code have persisted for the better part of 15 years, after an Asean-China non-binding agreement was introduced in 2002 to discourage hostile acts in the SCS.

Both parties finally agreed to use a shared draft framework during negotiations in Bali in February and made significant progress in a subsequent meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in April.

Asean and Chinese diplomats plan to convene another meeting in Guiyang, China, later this month with an eye towards concluding the COC framework by midyear.

“Last year China made a commitment to revitalise negotiations so that the COC framework could be agreed upon by the middle of this year. We are nearing the end of this process, so we truly hope it will be done,” said Arrmanatha.

Jakarta is now thinking about the next step, he said, and stressed that it would seek Beijing’s commitment to a clear timeline for the earliest conclusion of the COC.

China is not a member of Asean, but has made sweeping claims over the SCS, through which US$5 trillion in seaborne trade passes each year.

Asean member states Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam have more or less agreed to negotiate with China bilaterally over their competing claims in the sea, but Beijing has been extremely sensitive about objections to its expansion activities there or any mention of the international tribunal ruling that outlawed its claims last year.

Asean published a non-confrontational statement on the issue during the Asean Summit in Laos last year and has since published similar statements.

Asean chair, the Philippines, which won an international tribunal case against China last year, issued a neutral statement on the South China Sea in April, while another one was published earlier this month after an Asean-United States special foreign ministers meeting in Washington.

Besides consultations on regional issues, Retno is also expected to discuss efforts to strengthen Indonesia’s bilateral mechanisms with China, as well as follow up on a few “pending issues” from a previous meeting between the two countries’ heads of state last November.

“The main issue the foreign minister will follow up on has to do with the 2017-2021 Plan of Action that is meant to implement Indonesia’s comprehensive strategic partnership with China,” the spokesman said.

Arrmanatha said both foreign ministers would also discuss the North Korean issue, with Indonesia focusing on China’s contribution to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Meanwhile, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to strengthen a comprehensive strategic partnership during the former’s attendance of the Boao Forum for Asia Conference in 2015.

Jokowi and Xi are slated to meet again on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Sunday and Monday.

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US: No pressure on Philippines to push back vs China

May 10, 2017
A US Marine places his national flag next to the Philippines’ flag during the opening ceremony of the annual Philippines-US military exercise at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, suburban Manila on May 8, 2017. The Philippines and United States launched annual military exercises in Manila on May 8 but the longtime allies scaled them down in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to China and Russia. Ted Aljibe/AFP
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MANILA, Philippines — Washington will not put pressure on the Philippines to try to push back against China in connection with the South China Sea dispute, the US Department of  State said.

Patrick Murphy, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, stressed that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants cooperation and collaboration in addressing the North Korea and South China Sea issues.

President Rodrigo Duterte has refused to use the ruling of an international arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea in pressuring China.

In a telephonic press conference last week, Murphy said that the US took note of the arbitration ruling issued last year and consistently notes that it is a binding ruling between the Philippines and China.

“But there is a much bigger story here, and that is bringing about a solution to the disputes that applies to all of the claimants and then the rest of the international community that has the rights and the needs to access the South China Sea area,” Murphy told members of the press.

Murphy noted that the South China Sea dispute was one of the main issues discussed during the meeting between Tillerson and his Southeast Asian counterparts last week.

The US official noted that Washington and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) share common objectives in wanting the air and maritime transit through the South China Sea to be free and open in accordance with international law.

“He gave his counterparts and Southeast Asia assurances that they could count on the US to assert our rights for the benefit of unimpeded commerce and trade and regional and global security and peace. In accordance with international law, we will assert those rights,” Murphy said.

Tillerson also assured his ASEAN counterparts that the US strongly encourages all relevant parties to stop any activities associated with militarizing, constructing or reclaiming land in the disputed areas.

READ: Amid watered down statement, ASEAN ministers share South China Sea concern with Tillerson

“He thought that it would be beneficial for all if such activities of militarization, construction, and reclamation would stop. Let’s ensure that the environment is conducive for good talks to find a solution,” Murphy said.

Murphy further noted that the US is not a claimant in the South China Sea but an interested party seeking to enjoy unimpeded travel and transit for purposes of navigation, overflight and commerce.

Washington believes that the South China Sea dispute could be resolved through dialogue, according to Murphy.

“Dialogue is important as long as it is inclusive and adheres to the principles of a rules-based order,” the deputy assistant secretary said.

Murphy reiterated that Washington does not want to put pressure due to a common understanding of the need for navigation, overflight and for commerce.

“It’s a complicated issue, and I think ASEAN is itself a very good example of that. There are claimants, there are non-claimants… The good news is that ASEAN has demonstrated unity on this issue in the past and ASEAN leaders themselves have referred to the Sunnylands Principles which deal with things like militarization, and reclamation, and construction,” Murphy said.

As an interested party, the US encouraged China and the ASEAN to conduct a dialogue that would result in a binding agreement that would apply to all countries.

During the conclusion of the 30th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Manila a few weeks ago, Duterte said that the 10-member regional bloc will push through with the enactment of a code of conduct on the South China Sea within the first half of the year.

The ASEAN, under Philippine chairmanship this year, did not mention any single reference of the arbitral ruling issued by a United Nations-backed tribunal in its final statement.

FULL TEXT: Chairman’s statement for the 30th ASEAN Summit

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 (The authors say, China prefers places with lots of poverty and corruption and not too much interest in rule of law or human rights…)
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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law and nobody has even complained.
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U.S. Will Still Test Beijing’s South China Sea Claims, Navy Says

May 8, 2017

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By Rosalind Mathieson
Bloomberg

May 8, 2017, 5:52 AM EDT May 8, 2017, 9:18 AM EDT
  • Hiatus in operations doesn’t mean policy shift, Swift says
  • Pacific Fleet commander speaks at briefing in Singapore

The U.S. Navy will still challenge claims by nations like China to exclusive access in the South China Sea, Pacific Fleet Commander Scott Swift said, insisting a hiatus in “freedom of navigation” patrols doesn’t mean the disputed waterway is a lower priority for the Trump presidency.

“We just went through a change in administration,” Admiral Swift said on Monday at a briefing in Singapore. “I am not surprised that process has continued in a dialogue as the new administration gets its feet on the ground and determines where would be appropriate to take advantage of these opportunities and where we may want to wait.”

“We just present the opportunities when we have a ship in the area and there is an area of interest,” he said, adding the Navy continues to propose such operations. There’s been “no change in policy” toward the region under Donald Trump, he said.

The U.S. hasn’t conducted any so-called FONOPs in the South China Sea since Trump took office, a Pentagon official said previously. Such patrols — where ships or planes go near features claimed by China and others to test their assertions to exclusive access — have typically produced protests from Beijing. The U.S. is not a claimant in the South China Sea, where China has built military airstrips and boosted its naval presence.

Trump called out China during his election campaign for its reclamation of rocks and reefs in the waterway, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes that carries more than $5 trillion in annual trade. But he’s since made clear he’s counting on cooperation with Beijing to rein in North Korea, and has frequently praised President Xi Jinping.

Sense of Uncertainty

Leaders of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations have also signaled a warmer approach to China. They put out a statement after a late-April summit in Manila noting “the improving cooperation between Asean and China” in the South China Sea. They welcomed “progress to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea” by the middle of this year.

Swift said within the military the process for proposing freedom of navigation operations remained the same. He said there would be advantages in doing them, noting a sense of uncertainty in Asia since the election about the U.S.’s future role.

“From that sense of uncertainty comes a sense of angst in the region,” he said. “One could argue that FONOPs would be one way to reduce that sense of uncertainty.”

Still, he said concerns about the U.S. commitment to the region were not new.

“I think if the entire United States Navy was forward deployed to the western Pacific there’d still be this sense of uncertainty of commitment,” Swift said. “And it wasn’t so much a reflection of the U.S. and the U.S. commitment, it’s the sense of uncertainty and angst in the region.”

Aircraft Carrier

Swift added he was unconcerned by China’s recent launch of its second aircraft carrier, its first built domestically.

The carrier program lies at the heart of China’s effort to build a “blue water” navy capable of projecting power beyond its coast and protecting increasingly far-flung interests. Xi has made overhauling and modernizing the People’s Liberation Army a centerpiece of his agenda since taking power in 2012.

“If you have a global economy I think you need a global navy to look after that economy,” Swift said.

“China is emerging on the global stage, and in my view that stage isn’t getting any bigger so we need to make space for China on the global stage, it’s in everyone’s best interest,” he said. “If they think they need carriers to support their maritime strategy then I am not concerned about that.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-08/u-s-navy-to-still-test-beijing-s-reef-claims-in-south-china-sea

Duterte seeks to play dealmaker in South China Sea disputes — Seeking favour with China? — Will the Philippines and other ASEAN nations win or lose?

May 7, 2017

The brash Philippine leader likely will use his chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to wrest concessions from China during this month’s meeting with China’s president

 Image may contain: 4 people
President Rodrigo Duterte (C) presides over the plenary session among ASEAN leaders, including Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Some ASEAN leaders said they were “railroaded” by Duterte. Photos from ASEAN

By Richard Heydarian
South China Morning Post

The Philippines’ controversial leader, Rodrigo Duterte, got his first crack at global leadership by chairing the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila late last month.

During the three-day mega-event, the Filipino president suavely hosted his fellow Southeast Asian leaders, who came to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the regional body’s founding. Southeast Asian leaders discussed a range of key challenges facing the region, from terrorism to transnational crime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Duterte wasted no chance to use his rotational chairmanship of the Asean to defend his controversial war on drugs, which has come under heavy criticism from Western powers and international media.

“[R]elations [with Dialogue Partners] can be made more productive and constructive if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Asean Member States is observed,” he said. The remarks were aimed, unmistakably, at foreign powers that have been critical of Duterte’s human rights record.

This emerging transactional approach is part of Duterte’s ‘art of the deal’ vis-à-vis the South China Sea disputes.

Standing before a largely sympathetic audience composed mostly of autocratic leaders with sketchy human rights records, the Filipino president called upon Western powers to “learn to respect” Asean nations and treat them as “sovereign equals”.

Just days earlier, human rights lawyer Jude Sabio sought to initiate a criminal case at the International Criminal Court against Duterte, accusing him of committing crimes against humanity. The European Union – and potentially even the United States – is expected to scale back economic aid to, and adopt punitive sanctions against, Manila, including raising tariff rates on Philippine exports.

In this Monday, May 1, 2017, photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, right, receives a hat from captain Hu Jie of the Chinese navy’s missile destroyer Changchun during the ship’s goodwill visit in Davao city in the southern Philippines. Yu Wei/Xinhua via AP

Yet, Duterte stood his ground and even promoted his signature war on drugs, which has struck a chord across the region. During the summit, Brunei’s Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah pushed for closer bilateral cooperation. Months earlier, Indonesian police chief Budi Waseso openly suggested a Duterte-style approach to the drug menace in his country.

Several Southeast Asian countries, especially the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, are also deeply worried about the prospects of the establishment of a “distant caliphate” by the regional affiliates of the so-called Islamic State. The Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf group, in particular, has rapidly expanded its geographical reach – as well as kidnapping and ransom operations – in maritime Southeast Asia’s porous borders.

 Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders link arms during the opening ceremony of the Asean summit in Manila last month. Photo: Reuters

During the summit, member states agreed to step up their joint effort to combat transnational crime as well as terrorism. The highlight of the summit, however, was the constant back-and-forth negotiations over the Asean’s stance on the South China Sea disputes, which has pitted China against several member states, particularly Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Months earlier, former Philippine foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay threatened to disrupt increasingly warm relations between Duterte and China by claiming that several regional states mentioned the Philippines’ arbitration case as a potential agenda for Asean.

In particular, some senior officials, especially in the Philippines, have suggested that the arbitration award could be used as a reference point for drafting a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea.

During the summit, Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged the Asean to “solve [the disputes] immediately” and come up with a “common stand” on the issue. But true to his earlier promise, Duterte refused to raise the Philippines’ landmark arbitration case against China, which boycotted the legal proceedings and flatly rejected the final award.

 The Philippine navy frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar anchors near Thitu Island during a visit by Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to the Spratly island on April 21. Photo: AFP

More surprisingly, however, Duterte vetoed proposals by some regional states, particularly Vietnam, to mention China’s reclamation activities and the increasing militarisation of the maritime disputes.

The term “serious concern”, which repeatedly appeared in previous Asean statements, was also dropped from the final statement. By all measures, this was a slam-dunk diplomatic victory for China, which prefers to manage the disputes on a bilateral, rather than multilateral, basis.

“Your president has defined the outcome … already,” a dispirited diplomat, likely from Vietnam, told the Philippine media. “Some are frustrated over the turn of events.” A visibly frustrated Filipino diplomat complained how his country ended up “being lumped together with Cambodia and Laos in protecting Chinese interests [in Asean] at all costs”.

The Filipino leader, however, promised to finalise a framework of a code of conduct before the end of the year. Still, he came under a flurry of criticism at home and abroad for taking a soft position on the South China Sea disputes, much to the delight of China.

In all likelihood, timing and national interest played a key role in shaping Duterte’s position as the chairman of Asean. Since he is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping this month for the Belt and Road Initiative summit, the Filipino president was more than eager to avoid any diplomatic conflict with Beijing.

During his meeting with Xi, Duterte will likely seek concessions in exchange for preventing Asean from adopting a tough and robust position on the South China Sea disputes. He could not only ask for larger Chinese infrastructure investments, especially in his home island of Mindanao, but also negotiate a modus vivendi, which will allow Filipino fishermen and military to gain unimpeded access to disputed land features and resources. This emerging transactional approach is part of Duterte’s “art of the deal” vis-à-vis the South China Sea disputes.

Richard Heydarian is a Manila-based academic and author of Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China & the Struggle for Western Pacific

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2093047/opinion-duterte-seeks-play-dealmaker-south-china-sea

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 (Judge Carpio’s book)

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