Philippines Hopes Code of Conduct for the South China Sea is Completed This Year

By Mei Manuel, January 12, 2017 03:01 AM

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. (Philippine Star)

On Wednesday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said that the Philippines hopes a framework for a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea will be completed within the middle of the year.

He remarks that the code would help reduce the tensions in the contested waters, where China has started militarizing artificial islands built after the Philippine lodged a protest against Beijing in The Hague. The tribunal had released their decision last year, supporting Manila's claim. However, the ruling will not be discussed in this year's Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit according to one Philippine official last week.

Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that he wanted to avoid any confrontation with China regarding the issue and saw no need to press Beijing to respect the ruling.

Yasay remarks that the code of conduct would make sure ASEAN and China would follow legal and diplomatic processes in settling territorial disputes. He also said that the ruling may not have an effect of the code because Manila cannot remove the structures made by Beijing within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

"This is a matter that we will be raising with China at some future time in bilateral talks and involving others in the discussion of this decision is just simply counter-productive for our purposes."

China, on their end, has remarked that they are negotiating with the ASEAN regarding the framework draft within the first half of the year. However, according to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, the second half of the framework negotiations and consultations would be "more arduous."

He also remarked that China and ASEAN were confident they could "safeguard peace and stability" and the freedom of overflight and navigation in the South China Sea.

China is currently claiming most of the South China Sea where $5 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the region.

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