Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (3rd L) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (2nd R) attend a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on August 30, 2019.
How Hwee Young/Pool/AFP
Duterte: Some parties reach out to talk about South China Sea code of conduct
Alexis Romero ( - August 31, 2019 - 11:51am

BEIJING, China — President Rodrigo Duterte has revealed that several parties have been reaching out to him to talk about the status of the long-delayed Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.  

Duterte said most of the parties are countries who belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations but "the biggest urgency" came from the western world. 

"Being the coordinator country of ASEAN-China, I have been the recipient of so many requests regarding the progress of the Code of Conduct that China is preparing for," he said during his bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last Friday at the Great Hall of the People here.  

Duterte said the "passage" of a binding code by China and other parties in the South China Sea dispute "is the least concern" of the United States. 

Asked to explain the president's statement, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said it was made in the context of discussion on how the completion of the COC could be accelerated. 

He noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping had also remarked that China and ASEAN are making "steady progress" in the talks on the COC and had claimed that the South China Sea situation is "improving, but for outside interference." 

Li told Duterte he was hopeful that a consensus would be achieved on the COC. 

"It is our hope that during the Philippines’ tenure as the country coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, we will conclude COC consultations so as to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," the Chinese premier said. 

Last June, Duterte said the United States should stay out of the talks on the South China Sea row, believing it would end up engaging in a "shouting match" with China. The president had proposed the tapping of a neutral third party to fast track the talks on the code.  

In 2002, ASEAN and China agreed to craft a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to ensure peace and stability in disputed areas.

During his meeting with Xi here last Thursday, Duterte cited the need to finish the Code of Conduct, saying it would help resolve numerous conflicts. Xi agreed that there is a need to come up with a Code of Conduct and it should be crafted within the last remaining years of Duterte. 

Other meetings

Aside from Li, Duterte also met with various business groups and officials last Friday. 

He had meetings with construction delegates, whom he considers as primary partners on the government's 'Build, Build, Build' infrastructure program; officials of the local government of Cavite; Cavitex Holdings; and business leaders of the Chinese International Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector.

The president also met with officials of the China Communication Construction Company and China Airport Construction Group Co Ltd. to discuss plans for the Sangley Point International Aiport. The Duterte administration is planning to transfer general aviation or domestic flights to Sangley Airbase in Cavite to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  

Duterte went to the Philippine-China Business Forum before attending the opening ceremony of the FIBA Basketball  World Cup 2019. The president is the only foreign head of state invited as guest of Xi. 

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