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SOUTH CHINA SEA

Asean tackles PHL’s Spratlys proposal (Business Mirror)


MARITIME legal experts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are meeting in Manila to tackle the Philippine proposal that seeks to demilitarize the disputed islands in the South China Sea and counter Beijing’s military intrusions in the region through “enclaving.”

The proposal, based on the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (Unclos), seeks to segregate disputed from the nondisputed areas of South China Sea.

“The disputed area [relevant features and adjacent waters] can be segregated from nondisputed waters [and continental shelf] of [South China Sea] by enclaving the said disputed area,” said the Philippine proposal in part, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror.

“Enclaving will literally operationalize the shelving of territorial disputes and pave the way for effective and meaningful cooperation among the claimant-countries” in the South China Sea.

Manila’s proposal argued that not all parts of the South China Sea are disputed and only the islands of Spratlys and Paracels are being claimed in whole by China and in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The Asean foreign ministers who met in Bali, Indonesia, in their joint statement, decided to send their respective maritime legal experts to study Manila’s proposal.

The findings of the meeting, which starts on Thursday and ends on September 25, will be reported to the Asean Senior Officials’ meeting, which will then make recommendations for the Asean foreign ministers to consider before the 19th Asean summit in November 2011 in Bali.

Asean members and China also agreed to move forward to a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to prevent military conflict in the region.

But at the same time, the Philippines plans to elevate its claim to parts of the Spratlys to the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea through voluntary arbitration since China has refused to be a party to the case.

Under Unclos, territorial disputes can be filed at the UN body but parties should all submit to the body. But the treaty provides a legal remedy when the other party refuses to be part of the arbitration.

Asean and China signed in November 2002 the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea that seeks to establish peace in the region and prevent parties from engaging in military activities in the disputed waters.

But the agreement did not stop China from its military intrusions in the disputed areas prompting claimant-countries, like Vietnam and the Philippines, to file protests.

http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/top-news/16861-asean-tackles-phls-spratlys-proposal

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Age: Bính Thìn
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