YASAY ON SOUTH CHINA SEA | ‘Come, let us reason together’: remarks at 2nd Manila Conference on SCS

By: Sec. Perfecto R. Yasay Jr., Department of Foreign Affairs / August 4, 2016 / Interaksyon.com

MANILA – DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay on Wednesday gave a quick review of what has transpired in the Philippines’ long journey in using rule of law to resolve South China Sea disputes, and what it hopes for post-UN tribunal ruling. He was represented at the Second Manila Conference on the South China Sea at the Manila Hotel by Undersecretary Enrique Manalo.

Following is full text of SECRETARY YASAY’S  remarks.

Foreign Service Institute Director-General Claro Cristobal,

Distinguished Colleagues,

Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

In a thriving democracy like the Philippines, policy discourse plays a key role. We discuss and debate the many issues that impact on the life of our nation and the lives of more than 100 million Filipinos.

As a democracy, we work hard to keep our channels of communication open, and our engagements are — more positively interactive to engender mutually enriching encounters. Debates will be more informed and verbal engagements more enriching if all parties have access to essential information on governance and on the government.

The right information is an important staple for divergence or convergence of ideas – assuring of good content in a spirited idea exchange. Otherwise, our discussion will be, as Shakespeare put it, simply “sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Policy discourse and Freedom of Information

Barely a month into our new government, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 2 implementing the freedom of information (FOI).

No doubt, this will support our policy dialogue which must be characterized by depth and substance. As it is, our discourse is already driven by the active and critical participation of our people at every possible platform.

The shaping of public policy is a shared process where our people really participate in the shaping of national policy. This is consultation at its best. Our democracy provides us a climate and framework for a market place of ideas, where persuasion is preferred over coercion. For these reasons, the conference’s theme, “Managing Tensions, Revisiting Regional Efforts, and Fostering Cooperation,” is timely and relevant.

Philippines and Track Two Diplomacy

The Philippines has and will always be committed to Track II diplomacy. The diversity of views in Track II dialogues among non-state actors strengthens our democracy. This market place of ideas will flourish if we are all deeply committed to the rule of law, particularly when persuasion wins the day. Coercion or imposition has no place in this free market of ideas.

In a free exchange of thoughts and views, the body of knowledge possessed by every participant in a dialogue expands and deepens. I have always shared the belief of Justice Wendell Holmes who said, “The mind, stretched to a new idea, will never go back to its original dimension.” With this piece of wisdom, I welcome all of you today to the Second Manila Conference on the South China Sea.

The South China Sea (SCS)

The world is closely watching developments in the South China Sea. Given its importance to transnational trade and connectivity, keeping a peaceful and predictable maritime order is an international priority. This is especially true considering that stability is a pre-condition to sustaining the economic growth in both South East Asia and North East Asia.

Asia and the rest of the world will benefit from freedom of navigation and over flight, unimpeded lawful commerce, respect for traditional fishing rights, and the primacy of a rules-based maritime regime in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS

UNCLOS is considered the Constitution of the Oceans. It codifies the fundamental principles governing our seas. It is the duty of every country in the community of nations, as partners under UNCLOS, to ensure that this constitution effectively governs all waters, including the South China Sea.

As we all know, disputes in the South China Sea are not new. Overlapping claims have been made and asserted for decades. They seldom placed regional stability in a precarious situation, until unilateral actions were undertaken beginning in 1995.

Developments in the region

Since then, the region has endeavored to peacefully manage these disputes. In 2002, ASEAN and China agreed on a Declaration of Conduct (DOC) that promotes self-restraint and the non-use of force or threat of force in the disputed waters, and to commence consultations on a Code of Conduct (COC) that would manage tensions on the ground. In May 2009, China formally articulated its Nine Dash Line claim over almost the entire South China Sea.

To discuss these developments, the First Manila Conference on the South China Sea was convened in 2011. The conference produced meaningful outcomes that are still relevant today. Recommended, among others, were the need for states to think in terms of the regional interest, the need to improve the climate for dialogue through demilitarization of sensitive areas, and the institution of confidence-building measures, and the need for claimant-states to clarify the basis of their claims in accordance with UNCLOS.

Since then, two parallel tracks of development on the ground and on the diplomatic front have occurred.

On the ground, the South China Sea has unfortunately witnessed further unilateral activities, which resulted in irreparable damage to the marine environment, as well as on the livelihood of our fishermen in littoral communities, such as in the province of Zambales, located some 150 kilometers north of Manila. Read more...

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