Think tanks: ASEAN maritime crisis will affect $5.3 T of trade

International think tanks warned of economic impact on the region if ASEAN will not unite to stop the escalation of disputes in the South China Sea.

In a published article, Bonnie Glaser, senior advisor for Asia, Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “Each year, $5.3 trillion of trade passes through the South China Sea; US trade accounts for $1.2 trillion of this total. Should a crisis occur, the diversion of cargo ships to other routes would harm regional economies as a result of an increase in insurance rates and longer transits. Conflict of any scale in the South China Sea would hamper the claimants from benefiting from the South China Sea’s proven and potential riches.”

A. Ibrahim Almuttaqi of the Jakarta-based Habibie Center said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must go beyond simple rhetoric and towards actions following the favorable ruling for the Philippines by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Even agreeing on simple rhetoric has proved to be difficult for ASEAN,” Almuttaqi said at the forum “Renewing the Multilateral Response: Building an ASEAN Coalition,” organized by the think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute in partnership with Asia Society Philippines and the Asian Institute of Management in Makati.

In the heels of the decisive blow against China’s aggression in the hotly contested waters, the regional bloc must address “serious issues” within it, including its lack of unity, limited capabilities, and limited resources.

Dindo Manhit, ADRi president, said the 28th ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos can be a good venue to send a strong message to call on China to play a constructive, rather than destabilizing role in the region.

“The Philippines and its ASEAN partners have an opportunity to leverage on the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision to uphold the UNCLOS and effectively extinguishing China’s ‘Nine-Dash Line’ claim,” he said.

Even so, Almuttaqi is against isolating Beijing, which he said will only serve to provoke the rising power into taking a more assertive stance.

“Remember, the ruling cannot be implemented without the cooperation of all parties, including China,” he stressed. – Albert Del Rosario Institute

Originally posted on The Philippine Star

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