MANILA - The Philippines missed the chance to impress respect for international law upon China when it failed to raise its legal victory in the South China Sea during the ASEAN Summit in Manila, a former envoy said Wednesday.
The Philippines could have gotten the support of other ASEAN members who have competing claims with China in the resource-rich waters, said former ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr.
"We never even brought up the subject of the arbitral ruling in the discussions. This was a lost opportunity to have gotten the support of ASEAN countries to get China to respect the rule of law and respect international law," he told ANC.
China and ASEAN this week agreed to start discussions on a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. This will supersede an existing declaration that did not stop Beijing from building massive structures on reefs and outcrops.
Cuisia said the Philippines could be negotiating on a "very weak" position as China had completed several structures in the South China Sea.
"As early as 2012 we were already pushing for a code of conduct. China was deliberately taking its time because they wanted to accomplish the objective of completing reclamation, construction, militarization of reefs they seized from other claimants," he said.