Asean foreign ministers push dialogues to ease sea tension

At the end of an ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting Tuesday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, whose country now chairs ASEAN, said that his country is confident that ASEAN countries will work out a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea by June or July.

"We have a deadline, in the first half of this year, to try to complete the framework for the COC In the South China Sea".

"On the South China Sea, a number of ministers expressed concern over recent developments and escalation of activity in the area which may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region", Yasay said.

Yasay, who faced the Commission on Appointments on Wednesday, said the landmark decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration previous year only covered whether or not certain portions of the disputed water are within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. Yasay said the new approach was to capitalize on a "convergence of our interests".

Yasay said there is "no decision" on both the claim of China based on the nine-dash-line and the Philippines' claim of owning certain islands in this disputed territories.

"Even as they have ruled in our favor overwhelmingly, this territory continues to be worldwide waters", he said.

Duterte has turned Philippine foreign policy upside down by making overtures towards rival China to attract its trade, tourists and infrastructure investment.

"Therefore, the question about whether or not the Philippines own these islands or these features, or these areas or China ruling these islands, features, or areas has no legal basis under global law as yet", he said. In a social media post late previous year, titled "America has failed us", he said in part: "The United States held on to invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom".

"That will be the action where we will have to make sure we will be asserting ourselves, defending ourselves, even using force if necessary", he said.

"The dismantling of this equipment will depend somehow on what we will encode in the COC", Yasay explained.

He admitted that he became a permanent legal resident in the USA but returned to the Philippines after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

But even after meeting with the members of the CA and answering all their questions during yesterday's hearing, Yasay's confirmation was deferred until he could submit all the documents to support his claims about his non-US citizenship.

"And I was granted legal permanent resident status on the basis of my going there", he added.

"I never legally acquired a United States citizenship", he said.

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