The Philippines and Vietnam pledged to work for the adoption by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) amid China’s reclamation activities in disputed territories over West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said.
Coloma issued the statement to members of the Philippine media delegation following a bilateral meeting between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyan Tang Dung held Sunday (April 26).
The Philippines and Vietnam are just two of several countries in the ASEAN that have exclusive economic zone claims in the South China Sea challenging China’s nine-dash line theory.
The two leaders spoke to each other before a gala dinner hosted by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in honor of the visiting heads of state and government for the 26th ASEAN Summit.
Coloma said both President Aquino and Prime Minister Tan Dung expressed concern over China’s aggressiveness in reclaiming uninhabited islands in the disputed waters, which violates a provision stated under the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
“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.
Coloma said having a legally binding COC will effectively 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.
Meanwhile, besides the South China Sea issue, the two leaders also talked about the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and Vietnam, which Prime Minister Tan Dung described as “thriving in all aspects.”
Coloma said Prime Minister Tan Dung called for a meaningful observance of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Vietnam next year.
The Vietnamese leader cited the significant progress achieved in rice trade cooperation and in the strategic defense dialogue between the two countries that includes maritime cooperation.
Prime Minister Tan Dung also made an appeal to President Aquino regarding the case of 31 Vietnamese fishermen currently facing trial in the country 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.
Joining President Aquino in the meeting besides Coloma were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Abad, and Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya. (PCOO News Release)