While the adoption of a Code of Conduct (COC) on South China Sea is only expected to manage maritime disputes, not resolve it, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Acting Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said it is the “only viable solution” available for ASEAN and China to pursue.
“If you are going to express pessimism even before the start of negotiations, if I may return the question, what kind of alternatives (would you offer)?” he said.
In an interview with reporters before the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Related Summits officially kick off, Bolivar said the hope is for ASEAN and China to formulate a “more binding” document than the 2002 Declaration of Conduct in the area.
“Ang tingin ko diyan, everything is on the table, it’s just a matter on how the negotiators of each countries will position themselves to make a document that everyone can get behind pero ang hirap kasi hindi pa nga nagsisimula pessimism ka na agad.”
At the Stratbase ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies (ADRi) ASEAN Leadership Forum in Makati City, Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said that there’s “nothing wrong” with the idea of pursuing the COC but if that’s the only move parties will have, his organization will express “disappointment.”
“ASEAN negotiated the non-binding DOC in 2002. It took 15 years to negotiate a one-page outline that just restated the exact same thing we’re going to do in the DOC,” he said.
“The idea that this is going to lead to a binding way to manage things like fisheries depletion, oil and gas development or coastguard cooperation is a fantasy,” Poling added.