By Roy Mabasa
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfector Yasay Jr. has called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to “reject political pressures and manipulations” aimed at swaying it to agree on a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
Yasay Jr. made this call at the recently concluded Yushan Forum in Taiwan, even as he expressed hope that discussions toward achieving a final and effective agreement could begin within the year.
“To preserve its centrality and solidarity, ASEAN must reject political pressures and manipulations aimed at swaying it to agree on a COC designed to advance the interest of another country to the prejudice and disadvantage of the other claimants,” Yasay told a high-level meeting attended by past and present political leaders in the Asia-Pacific region.
The South China Sea and a legally binding agreement are likely to punctuate the discussions at the East Asia Summit (EAS) on November 13 when the 10 ASEAN leaders meet with their counterparts from the United States, Japan, China, Australia, India, Canada, South Korea and Russia.
Yasay suggested that in the event that ASEAN cannot unanimously agree on a COC, “it is crucial to leave the counterclaimants alone in taking such other options towards a bilateral peaceful settlement.”
“ASEAN’s solid alliance as a force to reckon with rests on its preparedness in embracing disruptive events in a nonconfrontational manner because of its commitment to ride and surmount the crest of that wave called – the ASEAN way,” he said.
Furthermore, Yasay warned that the COC must not seek to “replace or denigrate” the implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Yasay recalled that when the arbitral ruling came out in July last year, “the Philippines allowed the decision to speak for itself as final and binding between the parties.”
“We did not gloat over our triumph that recognized the primacy of international as cornerstone of our rules based system that applies with equal force upon all nations, large or small,” Yasay noted.
Also in attendance at the forum were former Vice Presidents Teofisto Guingona and Jejomar Binay.
For his part, Guingona urged Taiwanese businessmen to utilize the Philippines as a “gateway to Asia” citing the benefits from preferential tariffs that the country enjoys from the European Union and the United States.
Under such arrangement, Guingona said Taiwanese companies manufacturing in the Philippines could get duty exemptions on exports of about 5,000 products to the US and 6,274 products to EU for up to 10 years.
Among the Taiwanese businesses that could benefit, he said, are the “makers of footwear, headwear, umbrellas, electrical appliances, bicycles, canned tuna and processed pineapple.
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