Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is fully committed to come up with a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea (COC) more than 14 years after the signing of a non-binding declaration of conduct.
“There is no change in the ASEAN position,” said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo in a briefing in Boracay Island, the Philippines, on Monday.
He said the ASEAN member-states have been united in coming with a legally binding COC and the full implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) on the South China Sea.
He said the member states as well as China have been hoping to come up with a framework on the COC by this year.
There has been “more determination to proceed to finalise the COC framework as soon as possible and proceed to actual negotiations on the COC,” Manalo said.
The DOC was signed on Nov. 4, 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, by ASEAN member-states and China as a measure to help prevent and settle territorial disputes involving the South China Sea.
It declares among others that countries should “refrain from inhabiting presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features, and handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
But ASEAN-member states including the Philippines have protested the building of structures by China in the disputed territory.
While there were still no discussions on the COC framework, Manalo said the COC framework would be based on the DOC.
He also gave an update on the Senior Officials Meeting in preparation for the Foreign Ministers Retreat set on Feb. 21.
He said the meeting of the senior officials involved discussions on ASEAN community building, conduct of ASEAN summits, external relations and milestone anniversaries of the regional body as well dialogues with non-ASEAN countries.
The Foreign Ministers Retreat, to be chaired by Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, is the first major meeting of the ASEAN this year under the chairmanship of the Philippines, which coincides with the 50th founding anniversary of the regional body.
Established on Aug. 8, 1967, the ASEAN is composed of 10 member-states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It aims to promote regional cooperation on economic, political and security concerns.
Yasay will hold a briefing for journalists on the highlights of the meeting on Tuesday afternoon, according to the DFA.
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose earlier said that regional integration as well as security concerns including terrorism and illegal drugs would be among the issues to be tackled in the retreat.
He said common challenges including “transnational crimes like terrorism, violent extremism, human trafficking and illegal drugs” would be discussed in the meeting.
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