MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said that China has agreed to have a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and has vowed to consider fast-tracking the agreement as a step towards a peaceful resolution of the issue.
“China has graciously agreed to a Code of Conduct and it binds itself to the agreement,” Duterte told reporters during a press conference following the conclusion of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits.
He said China also pledged to adhere to the international principle of freedom of navigation and overflight in the strategic sea where an estimated USD3 trillion worth of trace passes every year.
The South China Sea also contains large fishery resources and huge gas and oil reserves are believed to lie underneath its seabed.
“The overflight in space above and the use of the China Sea will proceed and it was a promise of China, unbridled, unfettered,” Duterte said.
Furthermore, he said that while the territorial dispute has been a longstanding issue, China will consider accelerating the process after being pressed by ASEAN member-states.
Apart from the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam also have overlapping claims over the disputed waters.
On Monday, ASEAN leaders and China have agreed to start talks on the Code of Conduct based on the Framework approved by the Foreign Ministers in August.
“This is something which is an age-old problem. And I said, let it be. We’ll just observe certain norms of conduct and we were pressing China to set a date,” said President Duterte, chair of the regional summit.
He said China would “consider really fast tracking this Code of Conduct.”