Asean coast guards agree to set rules on disputed waters

/ 11:44 PM June 10, 2024

Asean coast guards agree to set rules on disputed waters

A Chinese military vessel fires water cannon at Philippine boat M/L Kalayaan during a resupply mission in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on Dec. 10, 2023. —photo courtesy of PCG

MANILA, Philippines — The coast guards of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have agreed to establish a set of rules that would “shape common norm” in the face of China’s arbitrary rules in the South China Sea.

The proposed draft for the Southeast Asia Protocol of Engagement at Sea (Sea-Peace) for coast guard and maritime law enforcement was among the topics discussed during the Asean coast guard forum (ACF) hosted by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) last week in Davao City, PCG spokesperson Rear Adm. Armando Balilo said on Monday.


READ: PH bats for Asean coast guard protocol amid South China Sea woes


“The Sea-Peace is hoped to shape common norm in CG (coast guard) operations based on Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and IMO (International Maritime Organization) Conventions where ACF states are already parties to in order to dissuade extra regional coast guards particularly China Coast Guard from behaving on its self-set rules,” he said.

“It is hoped that [a] peaceful, safe and prosperous rules-based order can be had consequential to this enabling condition,” he said.

The ACF members agreed to further review the proposed draft so this can be “comprehensively developed forward.”

Imposing rules

Most of the South China Sea claimants are from Asean, with their claims overlapping with those of China, which claims much of the disputed waters. The China Coast Guard has been harassing Philippine vessels on its resupply missions and other operations within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Beijing has been imposing rules and regulations contrary to international law, including the recent policy on detaining foreigners suspected of trespassing in its waters.

All the coast guards of Asean member states Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, except for Brunei and Timor-Leste, participated in the forum held on June 5 to 8.


Balilo said the participating coast guards also broached the possibility of holding maritime exercises and an Officers Interaction Program. These activities would still be subject to agreed rules and procedures, he said.

READ: China Coast Guard: We can detain trespassers

Seek UN intervention

The coast guard leaders also agreed not to accept at the forum observers from other countries outside Asean at this point, “in order to be exclusive to leverage its being Asean Centric.”

But House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo on Monday called on the government to seek the intervention of the United Nations General Assembly in compelling China to cease its aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea.

Tulfo, the ACT-CIS party representative, proposed a measure that would direct the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to sponsor a resolution before the UN General Assembly that would call on China to stop its unlawful actions.

In his House Resolution No. 1766, the lawmaker said seeking that body’s intervention was in accordance with Unclos and the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration affirming the Philippines’ rights over its exclusive economic zone.

Tulfo said his proposed measure would also be in line with President Marcos’ statement on the country’s commitment to resolve disputes through peaceful means.

“In pursuit of the stance of the President before the international community, it is thus imperative for the Philippine government, through the DFA, to assert its rights over the [West Philippine Sea] and intensify diplomatic efforts to obtain international support against China’s unlawful acts,” he said in the resolution.

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“The UN, through its resolutions, can significantly influence international norms and policies, providing a robust platform for the Philippines to assert its maritime rights and seek global support against unlawful actions by any State, thereby reinforcing the importance of the rule of law in resolving such disputes,” Tulfo said. —with a report from Jeanette I. Andrade

For comprehensive coverage, in-depth analysis, and the latest updates on the West Philippine Sea issue, visit our special site here. Stay informed with articles, videos, and expert opinions.

TAGS: ASEAN, Philippine Coast Guard, West Philippine Sea

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