China, Asean to meet on sea code

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 23, 2017 - 12:00am

BANGKOK – China will host a meeting with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in May to discuss the framework for the code of conduct for claimants in the South China Sea dispute.

The meeting, to be attended by senior officials, aims to thresh out the possible elements of a binding code of conduct in a bid to defuse tension over the maritime dispute, acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said yesterday.  

“China will be hosting a meeting in May and hopefully, maybe by that time, we will have made significant progress on the framework,” Manalo told reporters in a press conference here.

“The hope (is) that by the time we get to the meeting in May, senior officials in the ASEAN-China DOC (declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea) may be able to have at least a preliminary agreement on the framework.   

“The Philippines is fully committed to seeing that we can get to that point,” he added.

ASEAN member-countries and China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2002 to settle maritime disputes peacefully. It has been 14 years since the declaration was signed yet the parties have not formulated a binding code of conduct. 

During their bilateral meeting last Tuesday here, President Duterte and Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha cited the importance of crafting a framework for the code of conduct, which they hope would be completed this year.

“The importance of the framework is that if it is completed, it will identify the key elements of a Code of Conduct and that is possible because once we have a framework, it would then be possible to actually begin a series of discussions on a Code of Conduct on the basis of a framework,” Manalo said.

He added, however, it would be too early to predict the elements of the framework.

“These things are still under careful negotiations among our experts, the elements. So it’s really hard to say but at this stage, there will probably be key elements in the Code. For example, measures that would promote cooperation, measures that would prevent misunderstandings at sea, measures that would lead to not escalating tensions,” the acting foreign chief said.

“But I think it’s really, at this stage, maybe a bit early to go into the specific details because we have to subject it to negotiations. And you know, these are negotiations involving 11 countries,” Manalo said.

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