Press Release
July 17, 2012

Legarda: ASEAN has to face the issues, find solutions

Senator Legarda expressed concern over the implications of the failure by the ASEAN Ministers to agree on a joint statement during the recently concluded Foreign Minister's meeting in Phnom Penh. It is the first time in its 45 years of existence that ASEAN has failed to issue such a statement at the conclusion of its meetings.

"It is ironic that ASEAN, which is meeting under the theme 'One Community, One Destiny' in 2012, failed to reach consensus on what should be a simple joint communiqué that summarizes key discussion points during the Ministerial summit," Legarda said. "It is not the failure to issue the statement, per se, that worries me, but its implications on ASEAN's ability to shepherd the process of producing a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea," Legarda added.

The Leaders of ASEAN, in a meeting in Phnom Penh in April 2012, adopted a Declaration that underscored, among others, the commitment of ASEAN members to "uphold the collective commitments reflected in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and to move for the eventual realization of a regional code of conduct (COC)."

"The developments, or lack of it, are unsettling. It has been ten years since ASEAN adopted the DOC. ASEAN's true test comes in its ability to maintain a united Southeast Asia that is able to engage constructively with Asia and the rest of the world, without losing ASEAN centrality," Sen. Legarda added.

Senator Legarda also called attention to the fact that ASEAN's agenda for 2012 clearly placed priority on the implementation of the DOC.

"I invite everyone to revisit the Agenda which ASEAN Leaders adopted early this year in Phnom Penh. Number one among nine items in that agenda addressed itself to the issue of South China Sea. I understand why Sec. Albert del Rosario had wanted a factual reference to such discussions to be reflected in the statement. That is vital, lest ASEAN fails to lay down the premise and the basis for the long-awaited Code of Conduct," Sen. Legarda said. "The COC cannot just appear from nowhere without a valid premise and basis for its necessity. ASEAN needs to face the issues that threaten the stability of the region and collectively find solutions to address these," she added.

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