MANILA - The Philippines on Sunday said the failure of Southeast Asian foreign ministers to immediately release a joint statement was "standard practice" and not due to a lack of consensus.
The joint communique that would bare the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) stand on militarization in the South China Sea and global extremism was supposed to be released Saturday evening, but summit host Manila said it would not be released until most meetings have concluded.
"This is more of standard practice to release it all at the same time. We just want to release it as one package with the chairman's statement at the end of the cycle of meetings, either Monday or Tuesday," Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar told reporters.
"There were incidents in the past where the joint communique was released days after all the meetings ended and people have already left," Bolivar said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said top diplomats engaged in "candid discussions" and "passionate arguments" about "very sensitive and important issues" on Saturday.
Vietnam was reportedly urging other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansion in the South China Sea by making the framework on the code of conduct in the disputed territory legally binding.
The Philippines and Cambodia, ASEAN member states that received aid from China, were pushing to have the legally binding clause removed.
At least 4 ASEAN member states - the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam - have overlapping claims with China in the strategic route which China has peppered with man-made islands capable of housing military troops and weapons.