Envoy hopes for decision on South China Sea COC at Bangkok summit
BANGKOK — Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon has expressed hope for the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea during the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Thailand to “greatly help reduce tension” in the region.
The Philippines serves as coordinator of the Asean-China dialogue partnership from 2018 to 2021, which includes negotiations for the COC.
“Yes, as a country coordinator for the Asean-China Dialogue, I believe it is to the interest of Asean that we look forward to an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” Bernardo-Aragon said Thursday in an interview at the embassy here.
“I think this will greatly help reduce tension in the region which is, that should be conducive to the sustained economic growth of the region which is a common interest to all Asean member countries,” she added.
Bernardo-Aragon pointed out the progress in the talks that may lead to an early conclusion of the crafting of the COC.
“So we try to look at it in that aspect to conclude, to have an early conclusion on the Code of Conduct. We see some progress in the talks and there are continuing talks for an early conclusion of the COC,” she said.
Discussions on the COC are “unavoidable” during the 35th Asean Summit but “intensive negotiations” could not be expected, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West earlier said.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier agreed to fast track the negotiations in finalizing the COC in the hotly-contested South China Sea.
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