Palace pursuing negotiations for South China Sea Code of Conduct

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THERE is still hope that the Philippines would still be able to assert its jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea, says Malacañang.

In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque insisted that negotiations for a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea will continue despite Beijing’s passage of a new law authorizing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels that violate Chinese sovereignty.

Roque likewise refuted claims of retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio who earlier said that the prospect of coming up with a code of conduct is already “dead” due to the new Chinese law.

“Lahat ng batas pupuwedeng isulong ng mga iba’t ibang bansa, pero ito ay dapat consistent and in conformity with international law,” Roque said.

“As to whether or not the Code of Conduct is dead, I don’t think so po dahil iyan naman po ay patuloy na tinatanggap at pinag-uusapan ng mga bansa na mayroong kaniya-kaniyang claim diyan sa West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines is currently the dialogue coordinator between China and the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) on negotiations for a code of conduct aimed at preventing disputes from escalating into an armed conflict.

Aside from the Philippines and China, the other claimants include Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia. Taiwan and China are not ASEAN members.

Carpio also suggested to the Philippines and other claimants in ASEAN to ask a United Nations tribunal to nullify the Chinese law, which took effect on Monday.

Roque said the decision whether to sue China would come from the foreign ministries of concerned states. The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the new law last week.

“The decision on whether or not to actually do so will be dictated by national interest, not only of the Philippines, but also of the different ASEAN countries,” he said.

“We need to show that the enforcement of a law will in fact violate the rights of an individual and we need to show that there is an actual case or controversy as well.”

China’s claim to nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, was declared illegal in July 2016 by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration following a lawsuit filed by Manila in 2013.

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