PH hopeful China will keep commitment to join Code of Conduct talks

In this photo, taken Sept. 23, 2015, a Chinese Coast Guard boat sprays a water cannon at Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. China on Friday, May 19, 2017, said it reached agreement with the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) on the rough outline of a legally binding code of conduct designed to prevent clashes in the strategic South China Sea. (Photo by RENATO ETAC via AP)

The Philippines is hopeful that China will not back out and honor its commitment to engage in negotiations on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.

“We are still hopeful that the commitment is still there. The strategic environment is different now as opposed to some years back, very more cooperative spirit in managing the dispute, in reducing tensions in the area,” acting Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar told reporters.

Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nation in August endorsed the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) of Parties in the South China Sea.

“We have a framework of the code of conduct because it has been adopted by the ministers last August and the leaders on November 13 are expected to take note of the adoption and to announce the formal start of the negotiations of the actual code of conduct based on the framework that was adopted in August,” Bolivar said in a press briefing.

He said the government is hopeful on the announcement of the formal start of negotiations when Asean leaders, including China, would meet during the Asean Summit in Manila.

Before leaving for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would be “frank” with Chinese President Xi Jinping with regard to the maritime dispute in the South China Sea when they meet in Vietnam.

Aside from the Philippines, other Asean member states such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei have claims with China in the disputed sea.

The Philippine has questioned China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague and scored a victory against China.