ASEAN First Maritime Legal Experts' Meeting in Manila

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is hold its first  Maritime Legal Experts’ Meeting yesterday and today, September 22 and 23, at the at Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City.
The event brought together maritime legal experts from the ten Member States of ASEAN to discuss the Philippine proposal for a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Present during its opening ceremonies was Vice President Jejomar Binay, who delivered the opening remarks.
In his speech, Vice President Binay highlighted the importance of a rules-based regime in the West Philippine Sea, and how the ASEAN “will send a strong message to the world “where it has become a community wherein the rule of law and adherence to international law is sacrosanct.”
“The Philippines is therefore pushing for a rules-based approach in the West Philippines.  We believe that rules provide an effective tool for peaceful and fair resolution in the presence of disputes.  A rules-based approach is the key to advancing the peaceful settlement of disputes for all countries concerned in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
“We sincerely believe that our ASEAN brothers are one with us in the view that there should be a primacy of international law in state to state relations.  We have no doubt that ASEAN is firmly one with us in the belief that adherence to international law will provide a stable and objective standard by which an efficient solution in the West Philippine Sea could be achieved,” Vice President Binay added.
The two-day meeting resulted from the decision of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers at the 44th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) in Bali for the ASEAN Senior Officials to study the proposal with the assistance of maritime legal experts.
Subsequently, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers accepted the Philippine offer to host the Maritime Legal Experts’ Meeting.
The Meeting seeks to establish a common understanding among ASEAN Member States on the ZoPFF/C proposal.
Its findings will be reported to the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting (ASEAN SOM), which will then make recommendations for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers to consider before the 19th ASEAN Summit in November 2011 in Bali.