Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China are set to convene negotiations for the crafting of a Code of Conduct (CoC) on the South China Sea in August, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.
Cayetano admitted that all parties are still facing challenges on the substance of the CoC but he gave assurances that the Philippines was keen on pushing for a substantial document.
“We only have the framework as of now, but this August, there will be a meeting of the ministers. This time around, like what we had last year, it won’t be just the Asean but also our dialogue partners, our strategic partners, they’re all included,” he said in Filipino.
“We intend to push it to get as far as we can, as fast as we can,” Cayetano added.
He said the Philippines expects no less than an “effective CoC.”
“We want an effective CoC, something that we can rely on because the DoC [Declaration of Conduct], a lot has happened [to]it, so we want the CoC clear. For example on the environment, how do we protect [it], what will be the arrangement and how do we implement [it],” Cayetano said.
Last year, the Asean regional bloc and China adopted the CoC framework under the Philippines’ chairmanship, where both parties welcomed the adoption as a sign of progress after 15 years since the 2002 DoC was signed.
China, Taiwan and some Asean member states including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam, have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
During the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in February 2018, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the CoC negotiation would be “very complicated” and will require all parties to “ultimately exercise political will” to resolve sensitive issues, adding that territorial claims will not be resolved with the CoC alone.
Cayetano said he is confident that Singapore, as the current Asean chairman, will steer a fruitful CoC negotiation.
“As I’ve said, Singapore is the perfect country to lead us now. [It] is a perfect country to negotiate all of this because they are open-minded and they have this mindset of no nonsense, get things done,” he said.