Palace: Multilateral talks needed amid China’s construction at Mabini Reef

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

MALACANANG on Wednesday said that multilateral discussion is needed to deal with China’s reclamation project at the Mabini Reef in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Quoting Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that China is carrying out "reclamation or earth-moving activities" at the Mabini Reef, also known as the Johnson Reef, which is being claimed by the Philippines.

Vietnam also has a claim on the reef, hence the need for a multilateral discussion rather than a bilateral dialogue, he said.

"The President has always said that we prefer a multilateral dialogue consistent with international law, and consistent with the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, where there has been an emphasis on the provisions on not escalating any further tensions and not disrupting the status quo," Lacierda said.

He stressed that the Philippines does not want to escalate any tension with China.

Any activity in the disputed territory will be seen as a violation of the declaration, which was signed by China and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Cambodia back in November 2002.

According to the DOC, "The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner."

The Philippines has been pushing for the immediate conclusion of the Code of Conduct in South China Sea.

"Hopefully that China would be -- as a member of the international community -- also find reason to sit down with the member states and discuss the Declaration on (the) Conduct (of Parties in the South China Sea)," Lacierda said.

Apart from the Philippines and China, other claimant countries in South China Sea include Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. (SDR/Sunnex)

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