MANILA (Mabuhay) – Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on Thursday said the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) should take a “solid stand” on the member-nations’ territorial disputes with China.
Binay made the observation to Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Truong Trieu Duong during the latter’s call on the Vice President at the Coconut Palace Tuesday.
“As long as we are solid in ASEAN, [we have a strong case on our terroritorial claims],” Binay told Duong as the Vietnamese envoy urged the Vice President to reject China’s claims.
“Malaysia is keen to join us,” Duong told Binay.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei – the four members of the ASEAN with claims in the West Philippine Sea – previously failed to take a united stand on China’s growing aggressiveness after Brunei skipped the 1st ASEAN Claimants Working Group Meeting last month.
The four countries are claiming parts of the Spratly Islands. China, however, is laying claim to about 80 percent of the Spratlys under its controversial nine-dash line.
During his call on Binay, Duong expressed his concern on China’s allegedly increasing aggression in pressing territorial claims, saying the incident of the Chinese Coast Guard’s (CCG) use of water cannons on Filipino fishermen could also “most likely” happen to Vietnamese fishermen.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines revealed last week that the CCG used water cannons to drive away Filipino fishermen from disputed waters along Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal on January 27, prompting the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a written protest to the Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy.
The Philippines and Vietnam previously affirmed their close consultations on maritime issues, including the West Philippine Sea, which Vietnam refers to as East Sea, during the 7th Meeting of the Philippines-Vietnam Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in August last year.
Both sides called for “the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and renewed support for a code of conduct.” (MNS)