Manila is waging a territorial dispute with China over the
Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, an area
believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits as well as
Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the sea,
which is traversed each year by ship-borne trade worth about $5
Albert del Rosario said the Philippines wanted to hold talks with
Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam before foreign ministers from regional
grouping the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet for
an annual conference in Myanmar next month.
"We are working towards having a possibility of claimants meeting
before the ASEAN ministerial meetings," Del Rosario told reporters
after talks with Thailand's acting foreign minister, Sihasak
"We don't have any dates yet and it's a work in progress."
Del Rosario also visited Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam early this
month to drum up support for the meeting. Jakarta had a separate
proposal for an ASEAN-China dialogue to defuse tension after Beijing
placed an oil rig in a disputed waters in May.
China's May 2 deployment of the rig in waters claimed by Vietnam set
off deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam, followed by numerous ship
collisions after scores of vessels from both countries regularly
squared off around the platform.
China removed the oil rig this week after completing three months of
exploration work. The rig's departure was welcomed by Washington,
which had decried its initial deployment as a "provocative" act.
"We are certainly concerned with the situation," Thailand's Sihasak
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"We do want to see a de-escalation of tension. We have to see all
sides engaging in confidence-building measures, more cooperation,
whenever possible, and the need for self-restraint on the part of
Thailand is helping to coordinate between ASEAN and China, Sihasak
said, adding it has done its best to move the dialogue forward,
particularly in efforts to agree on a code of conduct in the South
Efforts since December 2012 to launch talks among the four Southeast
Asian nations with claims on the South China Sea have been unable to
In February, Manila hosted a meeting of claimant states but Brunei
failed to attend, and also skipped a meeting in Kuala Lumpur in late
March, saying it was not in its national interest to do so. Manila
is trying to revive the talks.
The Philippines has filed an arbitration case against China before
the U.N. tribunal in the Hague, seeking clarification of its
200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea. Manila
expects the court to rule in its favor within a year after China
ignored the arbitration case.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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