The Philippines, China and ASEAN Forum

Prospects for Cooperation and Regional Public Goods in the South China Sea

MANILA, December 5 2012 -- In cooperation with the AIM Policy Center, AIM Center for Development Management, Former Senior Government Officials, Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Group of the Philippines, the Asia Society Philippine Foundation hosted a forum called “The Philippines, China and ASEAN: Prospects for Cooperation and Regional Public Goods in the South China Sea”. The panel consisted of four speakers: Leticia Ramos-Shahani, Rafael Alunan III, Chito Sta. Romana, and Henry Bensurto, Jr. The forum started off with a video presentation by Atty. Jay Batongbacal from the UP College of Law/UP Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea which elaborated on the boundary issues surrounding the South China Sea after which the panel of speakers each provided their input. Speaking to an audience of 80 people, which included the ambassadors of Iran, Japan, and India, these four experts shared their knowledge about the South China dispute, its implications for the Philippines, and possible solutions.

Leticia Ramos-Shahani, a former Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, recounted the history of the dispute, talking about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and diplomatic relations with China. In addition, she addressed issues that the Philippines needs to tackle in order to prepare for future maritime challenges with China, such as investment in government thinktanks and educating the Filipino people and government officials on policy so that there will be experts on China.

Rafael Alunan III, former Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, shared his knowledge about what is at stake for the Philippines in the dispute from an economic, military, and environment standpoint. He highlighted the importance of protecting the West Philippine Sea’s natural resources and coral reefs.

L-R: Chito Sta. Romana, Rafael Alunan III, Leticia Ramos-Shahani, Anthony Abad,
Atty. Henry Sicad Bensurto Jr., Dean Juan Miguel Luz

Chito Sta. Romana, former China Bureau Chief of ABC News, discussed the current status of China as a rising world power rivaling the United States. He talked about the measures China has taken toward strong and peaceful economic growth and in playing a more prominent role on the international stage.

Atty. Henry Bensurto, Jr., former Secretary General of the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs, showed the boundaries and territories under contention in the South China Sea dispute. He proposed “enclaving” as a way to resolve the issue, in which the Philippines and China first straighten out maritime disputes before the territorial disputes.

For the full talk, check out the video below: