Forum on South China Sea
Roberto R. Romulo, the chairman, announced that the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development , in collaboration with the Institute of South East Asian Studies, Singapore (ISEAS), will host the Forum on Monday, October 17, 2011 in Metro Manila. There will be 23 notable former officials and authorities from academe speaking from ASEAN countries, China, Australia, India , Canada, the United States, and Europe.
Tensions between claimants to the potentially oil-rich waters and land features of the South China Sea, where also a quarter of the world’s shipping passes, has risen to potentially dangerous levels with incidents involving China, the Philippines and Vietnam in recent months. All claimants agree that the disputes should be resolved through peaceful means, including dialogue, although progress has been slow.
The conference is intended to provide an avenue for Track II discussions, in which non-officials (scholars, retired civil and military officials, public figures, and civil society) can engage in dialogue, discussing ideas and solutions that might not be possible in formal negotiations presently, but that could, over time, inﬂuence official thinking and, ultimately, policy. The conference will help more clearly define the South China Sea issue in its totality, with all concerned participating and with the goal of identifying common interests. The hope is that this will help governments in conducting their official dialogues with one another.
On October 16, 2011, there will be a closed-door session labeled “Informal Session: Scene Setting”. “Chatham House Rules” will apply: participants are free to use the information received but neither the identity nor affiliation of the speaker, nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. The chairman of this session will be former Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro.
The Forum chairman on October 17 will be former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Domingo L. Siazon, Jr. Opening speakers will be Chen Shiqui, Frank Wisner, and a third speaker who has been invited but not yet confirmed. Chen is Professor at China Foreign Affairs University and at Xi’an Jiaotong University. He was a former Director-General of Treaties and Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a former Ambassador to Indonesia and to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Vienna. Wisner is currently international affairs advisor of Patton Boggs LLP, a former American ambassador to the Philippines, India and Egypt, and a former undersecretary of defense and undersecretary of state. In the private sector he was previously a vice-chairman of AIG.
During the October 17 Forum (by invitation only) , there will be three sessions. Session One will be “Issues” chaired by former ASEAN Secretary General Rodolfo Severino and currently Head of the ASEAN Studies Centre, ISEAS. Session Two will be “Claims and Interests” chaired by former Philippine Ambassador to China Romualdo Ong. Session Three will be “Towards Peace and Prosperity in the South China Sea: Pathways for Regional Cooperation”. The session chair will be Dato Timothy Ong of Brunei Darussalam, who is Chairman of Asia Inc. Forum and former Acting Chair of the Brunei Economic Development Board. For further information, contact Melanie Reyes at Reyes@pfgc.ph.
Concept Paper: Forum on South China Sea
Brunei, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan claim all or part of the South China Sea. Recent incidents in the area have escalated tensions between claimants. Some 25% of the world’s shipping pass through the waters of the South China Sea; thus, non-littoral states also have a strong stake in preserving the freedom of navigation and use of these waters.
All claimants have stressed the importance of dialogue in dealing with the dispute. The agreement reached on the implementing guidelines to the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) in the South China Sea by ASEAN and China at the Bali meetings last July 2011 affirmed this commitment to peaceful resolution. While official government-to-government talks are necessary, Track II discussions could shed light on the complex issues involved and thus contribute to the success of these negotiations.
It is with this in mind that the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace is organizing a conference on the South China Sea this October in collaboration with the Institute for South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) of Singapore. The conference is intended to provide an avenue for Track II discussions, in which non-officials (scholars, retired civil and military officials, public figures, and civil society) can engage in dialogue, discussing ideas and solutions that might not be possible in formal negotiations presently, but that could over time inﬂuence official thinking and, ultimately, policy. The conference will help more clearly define the South China Sea issue in its totality, with all concerned participating and with the goal of identifying common interests. The hope is that this will help governments in conducting their dialogues with one another.
The goal of the conference is to give clarity to national positions, surface the underlying issues that animate these positions, and identify areas of common interest. All stakeholders have their respective national interests to protect and promote; determining the areas where these intersect with one another would be critical. Finding such common ground could serve as the catalyst for generating win-win solutions in the interim and over the long term.
The conference will begin with a scene setting exercise in an informal setting. Thought leaders on the subject will provide views and ideas to provoke discussion and set the tone for the Plenary the following day.
The first portion of the Plenary will be devoted to clarifying the issues arising from competing claims to the South China Sea as they impact individual claimants as well as those who do not have territorial claims but have interest in navigation issues.
The second portion will cover the scope and the legal bases for each claimant’s position. More important, it will provide the opportunity to explain the role that the South China Sea has in promoting their national interest. Non-littoral states will also have the opportunity to explain their interest in peace and stability in the region and in freedom of navigation there and seek to arrive at a common understanding of the rights and responsibilities of littoral and non-littoral states over the use of these waters. The clarification of the rights and responsibilities of both littoral and non-littoral states on such issues as freedom of navigation and use as well as over flights will provide the opportunity to allay concerns regarding the exercise of these rights and responsibilities.
The third portion is intended to identify common interests from which may evolve cooperation. For littoral states, there are critical strategic and economic issues. Environmental, socio-economic and domestic political concerns are important factors. Freedom of navigation and over flight is very significant for all states – littoral and non littoral – who use these waters for the movement of commerce and people.
Participants will have the opportunity to discuss ideas on how to defuse the current tension and foster cooperation that protect the interests of all concerned. Such confidence building joint or collaborative actions might cover law enforcement, sustainable fishing, marine conservation, pollution abatement, maritime rescue and seismic surveys for hydrocarbon resources. A discussion of possible models for adjudication as well as cooperation (such as those in place in the North Sea) would also be useful.
All state-claimants are also parties to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, in which all ASEAN member-states and China agreed to settle disputes peacefully, exercise self-restraint, including refraining from occupying hitherto uninhabited territories, and undertake cooperation and other confidence-building measures. It remains a useful framework for developing norms of behavior and collaborative actions and, the recent understanding in Bali is a step forward.
Participation in the dialogue would be open to knowledgeable persons from the claimants, other ASEAN members, users of the South China Sea, and relevant international organizations.