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Citing PCA ruling in COC talks may not be OK – DFA official

/ 08:19 PM October 28, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Invoking the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated China’s massive claims over the South China Sea in the ongoing negotiations on the code of conduct (COC) may not be the way to go, a foreign affairs official said Monday.

“Let’s just say that the arbitral decision permeates the Philippine positions in the negotiations of the code of conduct and of course when you’re negotiating and you know that the other party doesn’t like a mention of this thing, you don’t mention it. But the principles, we try to put in there,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West of the Office of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Affairs said in a press briefing.

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This after she was asked about Former Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario’s suggestion that the arbitral ruling must be included in the COC.

According to Del Rosario, the 10-member regional bloc “cannot promote the rule of law while ignoring the law as it stands.”

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But Mahilum-West said that when it comes to negotiations and diplomacy, “we want to try approaches that will work.”

“So if you feel that you know, invoking the decision and then citing the tribunal might not be productive, then you don’t do it. And then you just find some other way” she said.

The Philippines is the coordinator of the Asean-China dialogue. It also co-chairs the sea code negotiations with China.

“I think parties agree that we should finish the negotiations as soon as we can, but it’s also equally important to have a full and effective code of conduct that will be useful in maintaining the South China Sea as a region of peace, security, and stability,” Mahilum-West said.

In an earlier press briefing at Malacañang, the DFA officials said that talks concerning the long-delayed sea code were “unavoidable.”

However, she said intensive COC negotiations are not like to happen.

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READ: South China Sea Code of Conduct talks likely in Asean Summit – DFA official

According to Mahilum-West, the first reading of the single negotiating draft on the code of conduct negotiations was completed in Malaysia.

“Now we are going on to the next steps and we had a meeting in Vietnam recently so we would expect that the negotiations would discuss more substantive issues at the second reading and also probably discuss big-picture issues like conditions on the ground or conditions in the South China Sea,” she explained.

“So, we expect more, much more extensive discussions in the second phase of these negotiations and the time frame is that we would like to finish it by 2021,” she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier agreed to fast track the negotiations in finalizing the COC in the South China Sea.

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TAGS: ASEAN, Code of Conduct, DFA, Maritime Dispute, PCA, Permanent Court of Arbitration, PH-China Relations, Philippines, South China Sea
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