The maritime dispute over the South China Sea will be in the priority agenda during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Philippines in November.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo said the ASEAN hopes to adopt a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea to ease the tension in the disputed sea.
“The issue of the South China Sea, of course, is in the agenda of the ASEAN. In fact, we will be undertaking ongoing work throughout the year focusing on the unfinished Code of Conduct of the South China Sea and the Declaration of the Code of Conduct and the principles of the Code of Conduct,” Manalo said in a Palace briefing on Thursday.
“In fact, one of our main goals this year in cooperation with China, not only Philippines but ASEAN and China, is to try and arrive at a framework for the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea by the end of the year, that will be one of our main priorities,” he added.
Asked if the Hague ruling would be discussed during the summit, the foreign affairs official said “there’s no need to really discuss The Hague ruling because it already exists.”
“It’s already a part of the law, of the international law, so it’s there and the focus will be of course on – I think the priority now is to try and get a Code of Conduct,” he said.
“The Hague ruling will not be on the agenda in the sense that it’s already part of international law. So we really can’t discuss the ruling, it’s there,” he added.
Manalo said the Philippines hopes for a “conducive” atmosphere when the issue would be raised during the summit.
“We will talk to China in a way where we will push forth our interests, just as we expect China will play theirs, put forth theirs and we will see how we can discuss that,” he said.
“But certainly, we need to have a discussion, at least an atmosphere which is conducive for productive discussion and that’s what we will aim for,” he added.
He said the Philippines’ chairmanship would be “guided by our national interest” and “guided by the concerns of our ASEAN colleagues.”
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