MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano on Tuesday said that those who would like to frame the West Philippine Sea issue as one between the Philippines and China had political objectives and simply wanted to shame Beijing.
Cayetano was reacting to statements that the communique that the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued was weak as the group’s series of meetings in Manila ended.
He said that those who wanted to color the current situation in the South China Sea as Manila versus Beijing were viewing it from an old lens not reflective of the events of the past year.
He added that these individuals simply wanted China to be humiliated before the international community.
“So there are some whose political objective is to shame China. That’s why there basis is for or against China,” he said in a media conference in the event’s international media center.
“Is your objective to shame China or confront them, or is your objective peace and stability in the South China Sea and get the COC passed,” the secretary asked, referring to pact that would govern the actions of the parties to the dispute.
The release of the communique, which should be agreed upon, was over the mention of island-building and military activities in the final document.
Some countries, which have become heavily reliant on Beijing for trade and commerce, wanted to remove their mention to avoid offending the world’s second largest economy.
Vietnam, who has clashed with China in the past over issues in the waterway, wanted them retained and the bloc to use .
In the end, in a surprise move, ASEAN issued a communique calling for militarization to be avoided and noting concerns about reclamation.
Cayetano said that the communique should reflect the reality that reclamation in the West Philippine Sea had stopped.
“The framing during the Aquino administration I respect is Philippines vs. China. The situation on the ground called for that. The situation now is we’re talking, we’re gaining ground in the South China Sea. Can you not reflect that in your statements so that you get more ground?” the former senator said.
He also blasted a local online news outfit for reporting that the group issued a weak statement over the issue.
He said that the framing of the question was old and biased.
“It’s not about a weaker or stronger statement. It’s really about, is it more reflective or is it unreflective of the situation,” he told local and international journalists.
The Philippines nor ASEAN does not want to shame China as everybody would like to find a “peaceful resolution” to the issues hounding the region, he said.
The issue on the West Philippine Sea has been very divisive for ASEAN while China is very sensitive even to veiled mentions of its activities or actions in the seas.
The relationship of the Philippines and China has considerably improved under President Rodrigo Duterte as he tries to attract more Chinese money and investment into the country.