PH, Vietnam push for code of conduct amid China’s reclamation

MANILA  - President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung expressed their concern over China’s massive reclamation activities in the disputed South China Sea.

In a note to media, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino and Tan Dung held a bilateral meeting on Sunday before the gala dinner at the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Malaysia.

“The two leaders expressed concern over the reclamation activities undertaken by China that clearly indicate violation of the DOC provision against ‘inhabiting previously uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features,’ even as they compared notes on incidents of harassment that ‘add to tension’ in the South China Sea,” Coloma wrote in his note.

The DOC refers to the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an informal, non-binding code governing countries’ behavior in the disputed waters.

Coloma said the Philippines and Vietnam pledged to work for the adoption of a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) amid China’s reclamation activities.

He said having a legally binding COC will implement the declaration made by ASEAN countries and China on the exercise of self-restraint in order to de-escalate tensions and maintain peace and stability in the region.

The Philippines and Vietnam are among the several countries in the region that have exclusive economic zone claims in South China Sea that challenge China’s excessive nine-dash line claim.

Aquino and Tan Dung also discussed the bilateral relationship between their nations, which the Vietnamese leader described as “thriving in all aspects.”

Tan Dung also cited the significant progress achieved in the strategic defense dialogue between the two countries that includes maritime cooperation.

Tan Dung also made an appeal to Aquino regarding the case of 31 Vietnamese fishermen currently facing trial in the Philippines for poaching.

“Upon the prime minister’s request, the president said he will direct the Department of Justice to work for the speedy completion of the ongoing trial of the 31 Vietnamese fishermen who were arrested in Sulu for illegal fishing activities,” Coloma said.