Philippines leads call to restart South China Sea Dialogue
In a bid to prevent escalation of the tension in South China Sea, the Philippines called for a moratorium or freeze of all provocative activities by all countries that are claiming areas of the sea.
Foreign (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario said he wanted fresh dialogue within the year wherein a moratorium could be formally discussed by all stakeholders in the region. The secretary said ‘Let’s call for a moratorium in terms of activities that escalate tension.
‘We need to manage the tensions in the South China Sea before it gets out of hand.’
He said that he hoped the moratorium between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China will lead to a binding ‘code of conduct.’
Del Rosario said that China is becoming more aggressive in its expansion agenda by building more infrastructures in the area and provoking rival claimants before the United Nations (UN) Arbitral Tribunal takes up the Philippines’ case versus Beijing. US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel had earlier voiced his concern on the tension in the region and accused China of ‘changing the facts’ on the ground before a UN decision is made.
Russel was the first to suggest a need for a moratorium among all claimants in South China Sea.
Secretary del Rosario is confident that China’s efforts to reclaim areas in the South China Sea to make it their own is pointless because ‘If you take a reef and convert it to an island to be able to increase its maritime entitlements, that is not allowed.’
Chinese response to DFA has been negative, however. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rejected accusations of expansionism and said even the Philippines had buildings in the area: ‘This is totally unreasonable. We will by no means accept the so-called representations by the Philippines side and we require (it) to refrain from taking any action that may complicate the situation.’