Philippines Admits China’s Land Reclamation and Militarization in West Philippine Sea out of ASEAN communique

On Tuesday, Philippines’ top diplomat acknowledged that he did not want to involve concerns about China’s land reclamation and militarization exercises in the South China Sea in the ASEAN foreign ministers’ joint communique.

The joint communique appeared Sunday evening, however, turned out to mention “non-militarization” and “self-restraint” among the conduct of parties in the disputed waters.

The statement seems to be softer than the joint communique issued last year under the chairmanship of Laos. That communique showed grave concern over China’s militarization of its artificial islands. According to various Southeast Asian diplomats in media interviews, that earlier drafts of the ASEAN statement excluded China’s island construction and militarization in the South China Sea.

Cambodia had reportedly resisted discussing China’s land reclamation in the declaration, but Vietnam wanted tough language.
Cayetano told himself “didn’t want to include” China’s aggressive action in the joint communiqué.

The Philippine Foreign Secretary justified: “It’s not reflective of the present position. They’re not reclaiming land anymore, so why will you put it again this year?”

Cayetano repeated the views of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Beijing “had already completed the reclamation” two years ago, so ASEAN was not likely pointing to China.

On militarization, Cayetano said that there was militarization in the disputed sea, “but there’s also militarization outside.” He told that “every country has the right to defend itself.”

Cayetano said that he eventually admitted, however, to the majority of ASEAN foreign ministers.

He recalled telling his team that “it doesn’t matter” what they put in the first draft. He said what is important is that the final statement “reflects what the majority wants.”

Cayetano said if he had emphasized on excluding reclamation and militarization from the ASEAN report, “there’s a possibility we won’t have a joint communiqué.”

A former senator, Cayetano stated that Politicians and diplomats are so different because of politicians and I can speak for politicians being a politician for 25 years.

The Philippines’ top diplomat added that the problem is, the window for negotiation closes. Diplomats are different. We try to keep quiet. We try to talk less so that the area for negotiation and the windows and doors are more widely opened.