MANILA, Philippines – China has yet follow up on its commitment to remove about 26 remaining fishing vessels inside the lagoon of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Friday.
“That’s precisely what we’re waiting for. We’re waiting for them to be able to meet their commitment to remove those vessels from that lagoon,” Del Rosario said in an interview with reporters before meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin and his delegation at the Manila Peninsula.
Wunna arrived with his delegation Thursday for his two-day talks with Filipino officials and the second meeting of the Manila-Yangon Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC).
Del Rosario said China has expressed its intention to remove the vessels. There are no Philippine vessels inside the lagoon.
Del Rosario said that the country was still in the process of trying to de-escalate tensions in the area while trying to undertake a bilateral consultation with China.
Del Rosario said the Scarborough dispute was discussed during the JCBC, and hoped that the ASEAN would help out in finalizing a Code of Conduct for countries disputing territories in the West Philippine Sea.
“We think that a Code of Conduct should be substantive, and should be crafted in a way that disputes are moved forward for settlement,” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario said he hoped Myanmar would support the initiative, saying the country was interested in moving forward the basic elements introduced for the COC.
“Any form of assistance or support they can give us is welcome,” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario said they hoped to finalize the COC by this year. He said basic elements pushed by the Philippines were straightforward, which included dispute settlement mechanisms, and clarifications on disputed and undisputed areas.
In a statement Monday, the DFA said the JCBC aimed to tackle the countries’ interests in areas such as political cooperation, trade and investments, tourism, education, human rights, and law enforcement.