Aquino to ASEAN: China reclamation threatens regional security

MANILA  - President Benigno Aquino III on Monday urged his fellow Southeast Asian leaders to take a common stand to protect freedom of navigation and commerce in the disputed South China Sea.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino made this call during his intervention at the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Malaysia.

Aquino said China’s recent massive reclamation activities in disputed territories pose a threat to the region’s security and peace.

“He said that ASEAN centrality should now be clearly demonstrated by ‘expeditiously concluding a legally binding Code of Conduct with China’ that would implement the salient provisions of the declaration made in 2012 by China and ASEAN member countries with claims to maritime entitlements in the South China Sea,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.

Aquino said China’s reclamation activities “are direct violations” of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He added that the reclamation activities “cause irreparable loss and damage to the marine environment, threatening the livelihood of people living in the coastal communities.”

Aquino cited paragraph 5 of the DOC, which states that nations should exercise self-restraint in conducting activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.

These activities include inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other maritime features.

Aquino also thanked other nations such as the Group of Seven (G7) countries for opposing China’s illegal reclamation.

During the opening of the ASEAN summit this morning, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak expressed support for the Philippines’ position to resolve the South China Sea dispute in accordance with international law.

“Respect for international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, must be the basis of the rules of engagement and activities in the South China Sea,” Najib said.

“While we continue our engagement and cooperative relationships with countries outside ASEAN, we need to peacefully manage differences closer to home, including overlapping maritime claims, without increasing tensions,” he added.

Najib said the ASEAN must address the developments in the disputed sea in a “proactive, positive and constructive way.”