MANILA – Former Philippine foreign secretaries Albert del Rosario and Perfecto Yasay Jr aired opposing views on the Chairman's Statement from the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.
Reportedly due to China's lobbying, the Asean Chairman's Statement evaded two key issues involving the disputed South China Sea:
- The Asean Chairman's Statement did not cite the ruling of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, that struck down China's expansive claim over the South China Sea.
- It also did not voice concern over China's island building activities in the disputed waters.
Del Rosario, who served as foreign secretary under the Aquino administration, criticized the recent Asean Chairman's Statement.
The Philippines chairs the 10-member Asean this year.
Sought for comment, Del Rosario told reporters on Sunday, April 30: "Our government – in its desire to fully and quickly accommodate our aggressive northern neighbor – may have left itself negotiating a perilous road with little or no room to rely on break power and a chance to shift gears – if necessary."
It was under Del Rosario's watch that the Philippines filed a historic case against China over the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.
A former Philippine ambassador to the US, Del Rosario led the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for 5 years.
Yasay: Asean 'did the right thing'
Yasay, on the other hand, praised the Asean document.
In a Facebook post titled "Kudos to the Asean Way," Yasay said : "Asean, under the Philippine leadership, did the right thing in not bringing the Arbitral Tribunal's ruling on the SCS in the discussions of the recently concluded Summit. Nothing was to be gained by it except setting us back in our efforts towards peace, cooperation, progress and stability."
In any case, Yasay said the Hague ruling "serves as the strong legal foundation" for the Philippines to pursue bilateral talks with China.
At the same time, he said Asean "never wavered in its firm stand, agreed in Laos last year, against the militarization and reclamation activities" in the South China Sea.
It was on July 12, 2016, during Yasay's first two weeks in office, that the Hague tribunal issued the ruling that favored the Philippines.
Yasay, who had no previous experience in diplomacy, was removed from his post on rejected his appointment. A former dormitory roommate of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, he stayed in the DFA for 8 months. after lawmakers
On Tuesday, May 2, the current DFA leadership also weighed in on the issue, denying that China interfered with the crafting of the Asean Chairman's Statement.
Zaldy Patron, executive director of the DFA's Office of Asean Affairs, said the Asean leaders "exercised their independence." – Rappler.com