Saturday, February 18, 2017

Will Code of Conduct be Approved in ASEAN meeting hosted by the Philippines?

Will Code of Conduct be Approved in ASEAN meeting hosted by the Philippines?
By Roilo Golez

The Code of Conduct envisioned in 2002 to prevent certain activities has become virtually moot and academic since most of those activities have been done already by China to massively change the facts on the ground. 

In fact, no analyst before 2014 expected that China would undertake these massive constructions:
Cuarteron 231 hectares several buildings and three cement plants
Fiery Cross 274 hectares 630,000 square meter harbir and 3,000 meter runway
Gaven 136 hectares 66,402 square meter port
Hughes 76 hectares 292,000 square meter harbor and 35,350 square meter port
Johnson South 109 hectares 3,000 square meter harbor
Mischief 55.8 hectares 3,000 meter runway, cement plant
Subi 395 hectares 200 troops, 3,000 meter runway

All "islands" have early warning, air defense radars and air defense weapons. The three runways can accommodate all the aircraft in the arsenal of the PLA.

However, I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval of the Code of Conduct so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium range and long range missiles. 

The finalization and approval of a binding COC would be the legacy of the Duterte Government as host and chairman of the 2017 ASEAN meeting. But that would not come to pass with China's expected blocking of the COC in the light of its expansionist agenda in the South China Sea that could even include the declaration of an ADIZ.

On including the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Sec. Yasay already issued a statement last month, early January:

"MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines, this year's host of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit (ASEAN), will not raise the Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling on the South China Sea dispute.

"Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said that the Philippines will raise the matter in future bilateral talks with China and not during the ASEAN Summit.

"This is a battle that we will be raising with China at some future time on bilateral talks and to do and involve others in the discussion of this decision would be counter-productive for our purposes," Yasay said in a press conference on Wednesday."

Some legal experts fear that not raising the issue in multilateral fora like ASEAN might weaken our long term legal and political position in the dispute. They feel this is a weapon we should use to pursue our claim which should reach the UN General Assembly. Although I can read and understand this administration's strategy of maximizing the economic benefits that could accrue to the country between now and 2022 with a friendlier Philippine-China relations. 

The question is: Are the economic benefits an equitable trade-off compared to jeopardizing our position on the West Philippine Sea, 90% of which China is claiming with their nine dash line? We are talking here of around one million square kilometers of EEZ (our total EEZ under UNCLOS is around 2.2 million square kilometers) with all its natural resources and minerals, living and non-living and its strategic value to the Philippines.

The Philippines as host would however be placed in an awkward position if another party, like Vietnam, will raise the issue and ask that it be included in the Joint Statement. Vietnam is a beneficiary of the repudiation by the PCA of the nine dash line. Indonesia is also a beneficiary since the nine dash line overlaps with its Natuna EEZ. How would the Philippines respond and manage that possibility of Vietnam or Indonesia or other parties raising the issue?

1 comment:

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