President Benigno S. Aquino III called on his fellow Southeast Asian leaders to synchronize their regional and national priorities in line with the implementation of the ‘One Community’ concept of regional integration in 2015.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. issued the statement following President Aquino’s intervention during the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
He said President Aquino reiterated the Philippines’ call for the ASEAN to take a common stand to protect freedom of navigation and commerce in the South China Sea, especially in light of China’s recent massive reclamation activities in disputed territories, which pose a threat to the region’s security and peace.
“He (President Aquino) 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,” Secretary Coloma said.
According to the President, China’s reclamation activities “are direct violations of the DOC (Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) and the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)” and “cause irreparable loss and damage to the marine environment, threatening the livelihood of people living in the coastal communities.”
President Aquino cited paragraph 5 of the DOC, which states:
“The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
President Aquino also thanked various members of the international community, including the Group of Seven (G7) countries, for taking a clear stand and for their calls to action in response to these illegal reclamations.
“President Aquino also called for heightened vigilance to curb ‘the rise of religious fanaticism and extremism in the Middle East’ and reiterated the Philippines’ support for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 on foreign terrorism,” Coloma added.
President Aquino said this should be implemented to prevent the spread of terror-related crimes perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and similar groups.
He said that there is also a need to assist peoples caught up in humanitarian emergencies, such as those in Yemen and Libya.
President Aquino further urged ASEAN member states to work toward the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations this year by concentrating on the core issues covering trade in goods and services, investments, and economic cooperation.
He acknowledged the support of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia in the negotiations that led to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and advocated the use of a grassroots-based, multi-stakeholder approach to peace-building and reconciliation initiatives, Coloma said.
Noting that 2015 is also the terminal year of the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), President Aquino called for intensified efforts to eradicate poverty and foster inclusive growth as part of a collective vision of a post-2015 ASEAN Community, Coloma added.
President Aquino also advocated the initiation of accepting Timor-Leste as the 11th member state of the ASEAN and granting formal status to Norway as a dialogue partner. (PCOO News Release)