MANILA — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday welcomed the start of formal talks between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea describing it as “a watershed moment for regional security.”
Malacanang earlier confirmed that the start of negotiations was among the outcomes during the meeting between ASEAN leaders and China in the ASEAN Summit.
In August, ASEAN foreign ministers and their Chinese counterparts approved a framework for a COC on the disputed waters.
“This is the first time in 15 years that ASEAN and China have made any real progress toward settling the longstanding disputes in the West Philippine and South China seas,” Gatchalian said in a press statement.
Gatchalian said that the start of formal talks is “a pivotal step toward inking a comprehensive agreement which will permanently diffuse tensions in the disputed areas.”
Moreover, the senator also lauded the adoption of the ASEAN Consensus on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers meant to secure the welfare of migrant workers throughout the region.
He said that the adoption of the document is made more significant by the importance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) noting that there are approximately 500,000 Filipino migrant workers dispersed throughout Southeast Asia.
“I am proud that the Philippines was able to steer ASEAN toward an agreement which will further promote and defend the rights of our OFW heroes, no matter where they are stationed within the region,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, meanwhile, hailed President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine diplomatic corps for leading the Philippines to a successful run as chair of the ASEAN Summit.
“Through the able leadership of President Duterte, the ASEAN member-states and their dialogue partners were able to build the foundation for meaningful change in Southeast Asia,” Gatchalian said.
He also expressed confidence that Singapore, the next ASEAN chair, will build upon the foundation the Philippines has put in place.