Fast-track ‘Code of Conduct’ in South China Sea, Locsin to ASEAN

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

April 9, 2021, 9:55 pm

<p><em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) must adopt a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea where all parties, including China, shall accept restraints, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Friday.

Locsin issued the statement after two Chinese missile vessels on Thursday “approached” a boat carrying a team of journalists within the West Philippine Sea, reportedly only 90 nautical miles off mainland Palawan.

As the Mutual Defense Treaty is only triggered by an attack on Filipino public vessels, he said a situation that involves a civilian boat sailing in the West Philippine Sea "opens a whole new area of interest."

"(W)hat if Filipinos on a pleasure craft, one of many yachts out there, crosses an invisible line drawn by China in Philippine waters? What if they are fired upon or heaven forbid rammed – no, not that; those yachts cost millions of dollars," he said.

"This is why it is imperative for Asean to adopt a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea whereby all parties, China included, accept restraints."

As China coordinator, Locsin said the Philippines is pushing for Asean cooperation and "no dilly-dallying", which he said is already happening despite the pandemic.

If such an attack happens, he assured that the Philippine government, through the DFA, would lodge a strong protest.

"If that happens, expect a strong protest from DFA for hurt of pleasure-seekers if not death. Would China actually say they are in our territory? But if one went to Hong Kong without a visa, would it be right to shoot one? See, a whole new area of interest," Locsin said.

ABS-CBN News reporter Chiara Zambrano reported that China Coast Guard ship 5101, “approached and headed straight” toward her team. They were supposed to visit Ayungin Shoal.

They were asked via radio communication what their purpose was but they decided to just turn around. (PNA)