IS THE AQUINO WAY THE "ASEAN WAY”?
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU
RSIS Commentaries No. 004/2012 dated 5 January 2012
Growing Chinese assertiveness and military capability have led the Aquino government to adopt tougher rhetoric towards China over the South China Sea disputes. Will the Aquino way bring more results than the “ASEAN Way”?
THE AQUINO government’s tougher posture towards China with regard to the South China Sea disputes is changing the atmospherics of this long-standing regional security issue. While this shift has presented a new approach to tackling the regional tensions, observers are watching whether the “Aquino way” will bring more results than the “ASEAN Way” of non-confrontation. Not all ASEAN members are, however, comfortable with the Aquino approach.
Manila’s core interest
The Philippines, an archipelago entirely surrounded by water, pursues certain core interests in its territorial claims in the South China Sea just like other claimant countries. These include promoting respect for its territorial integrity and sovereignty, security against external threats, access to ocean resources to serve development needs, and maintaining good order at sea. Manila has demonstrated sovereignty over its claimed Kalayaan Islands through continuous occupation of certain features, prevention of illegal entry or illegal fishing, legislation of baselines, and other measures. In seeking peaceful and norms-based approaches to the disputes, it initiated ASEAN’s 1992 Manila Declaration on the South China Sea, which called on claimants to exercise self-restraint and settle disputes peacefully.