China-ASEAN declaration reaffirmed to resolve conflict

Posted on July 10, 2011

BEIJING --FOREIGN AFFAIRS Secretary Albert F. del Rosario on Friday said he and ranking Chinese officials agreed to settle the territorial dispute in the South China Sea through guidelines agreed upon by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) almost a decade ago.

Mr. Del Rosario, who talked to foreign journalists at the St. Regis Hotel near the Philippine embassy, said “yes” when asked if his two-day visit was a success, adding that both side have renewed their commitment to bring stability in the area amid recent tensions.

“The two sides reaffirmed their commitments to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN member countries in 2002,” Mr. del Rosario said, referring to his meeting with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

“Both ministers agreed to further strengthen the bonds and friendship and cooperation between the two countries and to fully implement the Joint Action Plan,” he added.

“Both ministers exchanged views on the maritime disputes and agreed not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” Mr. del Rosario further said.

Mr. del Rosario’s visit was a positive step towards a peaceful solution of the territorial issue between Philippines and China, said Ron Ying, Vice-president of China Institute for International Studies.
“There should be continuing dialogues, and that’s the only way to solve the problem,” he said.

Earlier, the Philippine government has accused China of increasing its military presence in the disputed area and threatening small Philippine vessels. China, on the other hand, has maintained that it is operating within its territory and that it did not violate any nation’s laws.

The Philippines, with a poorly equipped military, has consulted with the United Sates, its strong ally, over the issue last month when Mr. del Rosario held a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Navies from the Philippines and the US have conducted maritime exercise near the disputed waters.

The South China Sea, which hosts the oil-rich Spratly Islands, has been claimed in part or wholly by Brunei Darrusalam, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In a conference in Manila late this week, foreign policy experts called for a binding agreement among Spratly claimants to resolve conflicting positions.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and China, in a joint statement, stated that “maintaining healthy and stable development of bilateral ties serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and meets the common aspiration of the two peoples… The two sides gave positive assessment of the progress made over the past 36 years since China and the Philippines established diplomatic relations including the broad range of state-to-state cooperation involving the different branches of government and various sectors of society.”

Messrs. del Rosario and Yang, the statement noted, also discussed enhancement of trade and investments; cooperation in science and technology; agriculture and fisheries; food safety; human health; infrastructure; and transportation.

Also tackled were the need to improve cultural and people-to-people exchanges including twinning or sister-city arrangements; tourism, education, and media cooperation; and increased collaboration in the fight against transnational crimes including drug and human trafficking and the protection of nationals.

Mr. del Rosario said his trip will pave way for the expected visit of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III in late August or early September.
Noel M. Novicio, first secretary and consul of the Philippine embassy, said Beijing invited Mr. Aquino to visit China after assuming office last year. -- Darwin T. Wee