MANILA—Optimism is high that a framework on the Code of Conduct on the West Philippine Sea will be completed during the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.
“As President Rodrigo Duterte and (DFA) Secretary (Enrique) Manalo have mentioned a few times, we are hopeful that we will have a framework on the Code of Conduct within our chairmanship year,” acting DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said during a Palace briefing.
“First and foremost, we are more hopeful now than we were maybe a year or two years ago that we would have significant progress and there’s a commitment from ASEAN and China to complete the framework, in fact, by middle of this year,” Bolivar said.
He likewise pointed out that there had already been two previous meetings of the Joint Working Group to discuss the framework — in Bali, Indonesia and in Siem Reap, Cambodia — and said that there will be succeeding meetings all throughout the year.
“So we hope that ASEAN and China will make more significant progress. There has been increasing level of trust and confidence among the parties. And we are very hopeful that we will complete the framework by 2017,” Bolivar said.
As to the how the Philippines will tackle the maritime row given the UN tribunal ruling on the West Philippine Sea, Bolivar said the Philippine position is well known.
“The President has stated on numerous occasions that the primary consideration for his foreign engagements is the national interest. Going into this and other negotiations, the primary consideration is the national interest and the President has clearly enunciated the national interest on several occasions,” the DFA official said.
“Well, of course, the ruling is there, it is part of international jurisprudence on maritime zones. And definitely that’s always in our minds,” Bolivar said.