ASEAN foreign ministers endorse COC framework in South China Sea, Philippines reiterates call for binding document
Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations endorsed on Saturday the framework of the code of conduct (COC) in the disputed South China Sea for possible adoption during the the ASEAN-China meeting on Sunday.
But with the endorsement, the Philippines reiterated the need to have a "legally-binding" COC in the disputed waters.
"Yes, the ministers endorse the framework of the code of conduct for eventual adoption in the Asean-China Ministerial meeting on August 6," said Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar in a press briefing at the International Media Center in Pasay City.
He said it is the Philippines’ position that a "legally-binding" COC could soon be adopted.
The framework COC , which the 10 ASEAN member countries and China prepared, is not a legally-binding document.
"Well, the Philippines, the (DFA) Secretary (Alan Peter Cayetano) has mentioned that the Philippine position is preferably for a legally-binding instrument," Bolivar said.
In the draft Chairman's Statement of the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum, the Ministers "expressed hope that negotiations in the COC on the basis of the framework can begin as soon as possible."
A two-page framework COC, which was prepared by the ASEAN and Chinese senior ministers in May this year provides the document is "not an instrument to settle territorial disputes or maritime delimitation issues."
It provides for a rules-based framework containing a set of norms to guide the conduct of parties and promote maritime cooperation in the South China Sea.
It also calls for promotion of mutual trust, cooperation and confidence, prevent incidents, manage incidents should they occur, and create a favorable environment for the peaceful settlement of the disputes and to ensure maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation and overflight.
Filipino experts earlier warned Philippine officials not to allow the framework COC to diminish the ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring Manila while invalidating Beijing's historical and sovereign rights in almost the entire South China Sea.
The Aquino administration questioned China's sovereign claim through nine-dashed line in the South China Sea before the UN Arbitral Tribunal.
In July 2016, shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency, the Philippines received a favorable ruling.
But Duterte decided to have a "soft landing" in the Philippine relations with China and place the PCA ruling on the back burner..
Duterte has visited China twice. During those trips, Beijing promised to provide at least $24 billion assistance to the Philippines. Celerina Monte/DMS