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Indonesia's Widodo suggests joint infra projects in South China Sea

In this Sept. 9, 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte shares a light moment with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a state banquet. PPD/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines —Claimant countries in the South China should head toward agreements like implementing joint maritime infrastructure projects, Indonesia President Joko Widodo said Thursday.

Widodo noted that a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is needed, but it would only be a process towards an agreement.

"In my opinion, the importance of building blocks in this transition period is by implementing joint maritime infrastructure, as well as joint research in the marine resources in the South China Sea, maybe even joint patrols or we can develop the fisheries industries together," Widodo said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

The Indonesian chief executive is in the country to attend the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila.

'ASEAN must solve South China Sea dispute'

The South China Sea dispute is one of the issues that the 10-member regional bloc must solve immediately, Widodo said.

"In the previous meetings, there were still differences between ASEAN member states," Widodo said.

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The ASEAN member states, together with China, are expected to finish a framework for a Code of Conduct on the disputed waters by the first half of the year.

Indonesia is not a party to the dispute over the Spratlys, but is in a dispute with China over overlapping claims in the economic zone around the Natuna Islands.

RELATED: China mum on supporting legally binding South China Sea code

Widodo said that Southeast Asian countries should start with the integration of maritime infrastructure.

"For example, a Ro-Ro ship from Davao to Bitung in Manado, will make it easier for export and import process. It will also make it easier for transportation and logistics. Hence, the relations between Indonesia and the Philippines will improve," the Indonesian leader said.

Widodo is also scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday.

On Sunday, Widodo will attend the launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung Ro-Ro sea linkage route with Duterte.

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