Philippines calls for ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between ASEAN, China on sea code

By Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato | MANILA Fri May 19, 2017 | 7:58am EDT

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 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 for graphic on Turf war on the South China Sea

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters “Philippines calls for ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between ASEAN, China on sea code”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


3 Comments on “Philippines calls for ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between ASEAN, China on sea code”

  1. Eastern Looking Glass says:

    “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.”

    This, as the Reuters journalist and editors knows it, is a blatantly false statement but they, like all news agencies, broadcasters, writers, think-tankers, politicians, etc. in CIA’s pocket book, are under CIA’s directive to repeat this statement ad nauseam in order to brainwash the world.

    That “ruling” by the PCA is an invalid ruling by a fraudulent “court” – which is not sanctioned by the UN and is neither a “court” or a “tribunal” – in a fraudulent “arbitration” – in which there is no agreement by two disputants to an arbitration in the first place – intended to enable the former Aquino’s Administration to fraudulently annex the Spratly islands on behalf of the Philippines.

    The American neocon/deepstate/establishment controlled mass media are incorrigible with scams and frauds to hoodwink the world non stop.

    From outside Amerika, we ask – “Who is in charge of the U.S.? Is there a fourth/fifth estate that seems to be a power unto itself – acting independently and beyond the power of the President of the U.S.?”
    Perhaps Mr Trump should read the thoughts of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and how he dealt with such usurpers.

    There can only be one tiger on the mountain.


  2. Fre Okin says:

    It is clear China is Not the loser in the PCA ruling last year as many think or try to deceive their own people.

    Remember China occupy zero islands and have to spend billions to convert her reefs to artificial islands to protect them from sneaky Vietnamese and US attacks. Recent article about Fiery Cross Reef reinforcement to defend against Vietnamese frogmen is one reason why China should militarise her artificial islands, at least for defense purpose.

    With the biggest Taiping Island as ‘rock’ ruling, this means every island, reefs, islets have at the most 12 NM EEZ and since China have no real islands to begin with, she can go as near as 12 NM of Taiping, Thitu island etc and fish, drill for oil/gas. Same with regard to the VN Dai Hung oil field.

    With PH and VN occuping almost all of the Spratlys, it is clear They are the Real Losers in the PCA ruling, Not China. This is why VN is So Quiet about it and Duterte just put PCA ruling in the future as he know PH is in fact the loser here but fool Pinoys as if PH have a strong case which she have none.

    Same with Indonesia, Diaoyu/Senkaku. Now all these islands in Natuna as ‘rocks’ at the outermost give only 12 NM for Indonesia, not the illegal 200 NM from her big Natuna archipelago island as basis to capture and sink ships from VN, PH, Malaysia, Myanmar, China etc. Indonesia should be hauled before UN and made to pay for the damage to the fishermen who lost their ships from her illegal maritime law enforcement.


    • Max says:

      “Indonesia should be hauled before UN and made to pay for the damage to the fishermen who lost their ships from her illegal maritime law enforcement.”

      Absolutely. Diplomacy be damned.


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