MANILA, Philppines (UPDATED) – As China declared it wanted the South China Sea Code of Conduct signed by 2022, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned the sea code must not be used to legitimize Beijing’s unlawful behavior in the maritime region.
Carpio said it is incumbent upon countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ensure that the long-delayed sea code will have written provisions stating “without any ambiguity, that the Code does not supplant or supersede the UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] in anyway.”
“The Code should not be used to legitimize claims or activities that are otherwise illegal under international law. The Code should not be a vehicle to allow China to recover what it had already lost under the arbitral ruling in the South China Sea arbitration at The Hague,” Carpio said in a speech at the ADR Stratbase forum on the South China Sea code on Monday, October 28.
Leaders of Southeast Asian states are scheduled to meet for the 35th ASEAN summit in Thailand from October 31 to November 4. The DFA on Monday said state leaders are expected to state their positions on the South China Sea and code of conduct though formal negations will take place on lower levels.
Carpio said the most pressing problem in ASEAN today did not involve member states against one another but the territorial and maritime dispute that had half of its members states against China. These include the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei who all possess claims in the South China Sea.
“While the Spratlys dispute also involves overlapping territorial claims among the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, these ASEAN member-states have an informal understanding to maintain the status quo in the Spratlys,” Carpio said.
“China refuses to respect this status quo in the Spratlys and has been aggressively intimidating claimant states, notably the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, through…acts of intimidation exercised by paramilitary vessels and forces under the direction of the Chinese military,” he added.