Asean progresses on South China Sea code of conduct framework—DFA
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with the Philippines as chair is “working hard” and making significant developments in coming up with the framework of a legally binding Code of Conduct with Beijing to ease tensions in the disputed South China Sea, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“We are making progress on working with the framework on a possible Code of Conduct with China, and this will include how to avoid escalating tension and how to deal with issues that can be handled peacefully,” said DFA Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo in a televised forum on Tuesday morning.
“We are making progress and we are in a better position now than in the beginning of the year,” Manalo said.
Manalo earlier said that the Asean aims to arrive at a framework by yearend, which would hopefully help settle overlapping claims in the South China Sea. Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimant countries include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
This development comes 14 years after the signing of a nonbinding declaration of conduct (DOC) on the South China Sea.
Manalo, however, refused to detail the progress.
“There is already an understanding. We started from zero in January… I don’t want to jeopardize the good negotiations, I’d just say that the feeling now is positive,” he said.
“The key is managing tensions while improving relations. Our goal is to make our region prosperous,” Manalo added.
The DOC was signed on Nov. 4, 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, by Asean-member states and China as a measure to settle disputes and prevent tensions. It declares, among others, that countries should “refrain from inhabiting presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features, and handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
The Philippines have agreed to a “bilateral consultation mechanism” hosted by China to discuss issues regarding the sea dispute.
Beijing, which has nearly completed construction work on three Philippine-claimed reefs, has always favored bilateral talks with each claimant instead of multilateral talks with all parties involved. JE
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