GUIYANG, China—Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana has welcomed the completion of the draft of the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea territorial disputes.
”This is a welcome development. Bilateral and multilateral efforts to address issues of common concerns can be mutually reinforcing for peace, stability and security,” Sta. Romana said in his opening remarks during Friday’s 1st Meeting of the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative (BCM) on the South China Sea.
Sta. Romana lauded the senior officials of China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for finally endorsing the clean text of the framework to the ASEAN foreign ministers.
The senior officials decided to wrap up negotiations on the draft COC framework during last Thursday’s 14th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Guiyang.
The draft of the framework will be submitted during the China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Conference to be held in the Philippines in August this year for the foreign ministers’ consideration.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also welcomed the finalization of the draft of the framework, reaffirming the Philippines’ commitment to working towards an effective COC.
“Many, many countries wanted it to be legally binding. But I’m saying let’s start with it being binding, gentlemen’s agreement. We have a community of nations which signed,” former senator, now DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has told reporters in Manila.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, co-chair of the 14th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC, commended fellow senior officials from ASEAN for showing the “spirit of mutual respect and cooperation”.
During the meeting, Liu said the parties agreed to continue to advance the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety.
He said the draft of the COC framework was an accumulated outcome of their efforts for the past several years and reflects the basic principles and spirit of the DOC.
Based on the DOC adopted in 2012, the parties reaffirm their respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea as provided for by the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
The parties concerned will also undertake measures to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
The parties also have to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.
China and ASEAN member states may also explore or undertake cooperative activities, in such fields as navigation safety, search and rescue, marine scientific research, environmental protection, and combating transnational crimes at sea.
Under the DOC, the parties concerned reaffirm that the adoption of a COC in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region.
The Philippines was represented by former Consul General to Los Angeles and now DFA Assistant Secretary for Asian Affairs Maria Hellen Barber-De La Vega.
Other senior officials present were Emaleen Abd Rahman Teo of Brunei Darussalam, Kah Pharidh of Cambodia, Jose Antonio Morato Tavares of Indonesia, Phongsavanh Sisoulath of Laos, Joji Samuel MC Samuel of Malaysia, U Myint Thu of Myanmar, Busaya Mathelin of Thailand, Nguyen Quoc Dzung of Vietnam, and Singapore’s Chee Wee Kiong, who co-chaired the meeting.
Aside from China and the Philippines, three other ASEAN member states — Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam — have overlapping claims in the potentially energy-rich South China Sea.