Talks on code of conduct going nowhere – Locsin
MANILA, Philippines — Negotiations for the code of conduct in the South China Sea “went nowhere,” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has admitted as he raised the Philippines’ “serious concern” over recent incidents and the heightened tension in the area at the just concluded Asean-G-7 Foreign and Development Ministers Meeting in Liverpool, United Kingdom.
Locsin also thanked G-7 member-states for upholding the implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and the 2016 Award on the South China Sea arbitration.
“Unclos and the 2016 Arbitral Award are the twin anchors of Philippine positions and activities in the South China Sea. We will not raise anchor and drift or sail away from them. We value your support,” he said at the session on Indo-Pacific: Infrastructure, Technology and Shared Security during the ministers’ meeting held on Dec. 12.
According to Locsin, the “recent incidents and the heightened tension in the South China Sea remain a serious concern.” These, he said, prompted the Philippines to file diplomatic protests for every incursion and oppose the application of China’s Coast Guard Law beyond the limits of its maritime entitlements under the 1982 Unclos.
“China can claim what it wants and say what it wants but it cannot do anything it pleases without blowback from the Philippines,” he stressed.
“These worrying developments underscore the urgency and importance of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” he added.
Locsin said that the Philippines, in its role as then country coordinator for Asean-China Dialogue Relations, was “proud to have helped lead the process and build consensus.”
“But negotiations for the Code of Conduct, even in our watch, went nowhere,” he lamented, stressing that he was against the “exclusion of any outside power from the South China Sea.”
“That would create a semi-legal sphere of influence repugnant to the comity of all nations,” he added.
China had said that countries not directly involved in the maritime dispute in the South China Sea should “respect” its efforts, along with its neighbors, to peacefully settle the conflict among themselves even as it reiterated its expansive claims over the vast ocean.
An international arbitral tribunal upheld in July 2016 the Philippines’ position to invalidate Beijing’s baseless historical claims to most of the South China Sea. China did not take part in the arbitration and refused to recognize the ruling.
Locsin also expressed the country’s support for the strengthening of the Asean-G-7 partnership and further welcomed concrete and cooperative initiatives toward advancing the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
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