MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Tuesday vowed closer cooperation with visiting Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and other regional leaders to find a peaceful solution to territorial conflicts in the South China Sea.
At a state luncheon for the Sultan, the President said the government wanted to “move forward” with negotiations on a code of conduct to reduce disputes in the international waterway.
The President referred to rival claims by the Philippines and fellow Asean members Malaysia and Vietnam, along with Taiwan and China over the Spratly islands and the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
“This is our pledge: to continue working with our neighbors in implementing the commitments of Asean member states in the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and in moving forward with negotiations for the adoption of a Code of Conduct,” Aquino said.
The Sultan’s visit comes a week before leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations converge in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 24 and 25 for their 22nd summit. Brunei is this year’s chair of Asean, which also includes the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma (Myanmar).
Bolkiah, for his part, vowed to foster peace and stability in southeast Asia. He also praised Aquino for his peace initiatives with Moro rebels in Mindanao.
Bolkiah said Brunei, as Asean chair this year, would “continue to work closely with the Philippines towards achieving concrete outcomes in economic growth and social progress, and in promoting regional peace and stability.”
Aquino welcomed Bolkiah to Malacañang at past 10 a.m. after the latter laid a wreath at the monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park. A 21-gun salute boomed as the President and the Sultan stood on a platform while the anthems of both countries were played.
Bolkiah was set to fly out at around 3 p.m.