PH to press code of conduct in South China Sea
The Philippines will push for the completion of the framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea when it hosts this year’s summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) amid China’s militarization of the disputed waters.
But the Philippines’ victory over China in a challenge to latter’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague would not be on the summit agenda because the ruling was already part of international law, according to Foreign Undersecretary Enrique Manalo.
Manalo told reporters in Malacañang on Thursday that the South China Sea dispute would be on the agenda of the Asean summit this year, and the focus would be on ensuring progress in work on a code of conduct for all the claimants.
Besides China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea.
The Philippines tried to have the arbitration ruling mentioned in a joint statement at last year’s Asean summit, but China allies Cambodia and Laos blocked the move, handing a diplomatic victory to Beijing.
Asked whether the Philippines would ask China to stop building airstrips and docks on disputed reefs while the code of conduct is the works, Manalo said this was “the challenge we face in coming out with the framework.”
But the Philippines and other Asean members would continue to push for the peaceful resolution of the disputes, he added.
The Philippines’ playing host to the Asean summit comes amid warming ties between Manila and Beijing, with President Duterte reaching out to the Asian economic powerhouse for a mending of fences after the arbitration in The Hague.
Mr. Duterte has deferred bringing up the arbitration court ruling with China, though he has said he will insist on it during his term.
The government will formally launch the Philippine chairmanship of the 2017 Asean summit in Davao City on Jan. 15. This year also marks Asean’s 50th anniversary.
Hosting the event will cost the Philippines P15.5 billion.
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