Measures to de-escalate South China Sea tensions seen to improve ASEAN-China ties

MANILA-- The Philippines expects relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and China to improve on the back of two early harvest measures meant to de-escalate and manage tensions in the disputed South China Sea (SCS)/West Philippine Sea.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Asst. Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Hellen De La Vega cited the ministries of foreign affairs (MFA) to MFA hotline between ASEAN and China.

In layman's term, it means that if there is a maritime incident happening in this area, ministries of foreign affairs from each member state can call each other and say there is something going on. Please disengage or something like that, she said during the ASEAN2017 dialogue on political-security pillar on Friday.

De La Vega said MFAs successfully tested the hotline last March.

She noted the other measure was the code of unplanned encounters at sea (CUES), which she described if you meet at sea and it is not planned, you have this framework or platform.

The DFA official said the two early harvest measures on ASEAN relations with China signified that we have come to a point where we are co-engaged in building trust and confidence.

De La Vega said there are other areas of cooperation under the framework of ASEAN-China, both economic and socio-cultural pillars.

She added the dispute with China is not the sum total of our relations, whether it is going to be at the bilateral level, this Philippine-China, or even at the level of ASEAN-China.

Countries that have made competing claims over parts or all of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea were the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

ASEAN members and China completed the framework on the code of conduct for managing the dispute in the South China Sea on May 19 in Guiyang, Guizhou Province in Southwest China.

De La Vega said they expected to submit the completed COC framework to the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and China during their meeting in Manila in August for their consideration. (Leslie D. Venzon/PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency