PNoy to push anew for South China Sea Code of Conduct

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2014 01:48 PM | Updated as of May 07 2014 09:48 PM

MANILA - President Aquino will bring up the Code of Conduct for the claimants in maritime disputes in the South China Sea during the 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit this weekend at Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.

Aquino will leave for Myanmar on Saturday, May 10, at 1 pm. The summit will be held from May 10-11.

Assistant Secretary Charles Jose of the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippines is encouraged by the developments in the crafting of the Code of Conduct.

He said many member states of the ASEAN desire the early drafting of the code.

"There have been three meetings thus far since September 2013; and we take note of the discussions of the working groups on the crafting of the COC. I am sure the President will be bringing up - in his agenda item, I think he will be asking his fellow ASEAN leaders to work for the early conclusion of the COC," the official said.

"I think we still have some way to go to be able to conclude the COC. But I think the Philippines, together with other ASEAN countries, are working hard towards the early conclusion of the COC," he added.

Jose said it is important that ASEAN leaders have a meeting of the minds on the COC and express their strong desire to have an early conclusion of the code.

China, however, is not part of this ASEAN summit. China has been the biggest and most aggressive claimant in the maritime dispute.

"We are hoping that China will move in the same pace that we are moving towards this COC. We can only hope. There is no deadline by which we want to conclude the COC. But, as I have said earlier, we are working towards the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct," Jose said.

The DFA official said President Aquino will likely update his counterparts on the progress of the arbitration case the Philippines filed concerning the South China Sea.

"I would imagine the President will be informing his fellow ASEAN leaders on the submission by the Philippines of our Memorial last March 30 on the progress of our case. And I would also imagine that there would be discussions on the general situation in the South China Sea. And I could also imagine that there would be a mention in the statement of expression of concern by ASEAN on the situation in the South China Sea and how the ASEAN leaders would like the disputes to be resolved in a peaceful manner and in accordance to international law," he said.

Jose gave details on the ASEAN summit this weekend. He said President Aquino is scheduled to attend the welcome dinner hosted by Myanmar President U Thein Sein for all ASEAN Leaders and their delegations on Saturday, May 10.

The main summit will be on Sunday, May 11.

During the summit, Aquino will be attending the 24th ASEAN Summit Plenary; the 24th ASEAN Summit Retreat; the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface Meeting with Representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA); the ASEAN Leaders Interface Meeting with Representatives of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs); and the ASEAN Leaders Meeting with ASEAN Youth.

As ASEAN Chair, Myanmar has chosen the theme "Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community" to highlight the importance of a united ASEAN.”

Jose said Myanmar's theme also manifests its commitment to contribute to the realization of a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible, and people-centered community.

During the 24th ASEAN Summit Plenary, the leaders will discuss and exchange views on the progress of the implementation of the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community, the initiative for ASEAN Integration Work Plan II and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

"They will also discuss and exchange views on the future of ASEAN community and the external relations and future directions."

At the 24th ASEAN Summit Retreat, the leaders will exchange views on current regional and international issue and Myanmar, as ASEAN Chair, will brief the leaders on its preparations relative to ASEAN’s participation in the G-20 Summit to be held in November 2014.

The President, together with all the other ASEAN leaders, is also scheduled to meet with leaders of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly or AIPA, representatives of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and representatives of the ASEAN Youth.

Asked if the ASEAN will discuss the transpacific partnership, Jose said: "There are no indications that there will be discussions on the TPP."

The ASEAN is a 10-member regional grouping.

The summit will be chaired for the first time by Myanmar in 17 years as it transitions to democracy.

The 24th summit comes amid rising tensions between China and some Asean member nations, including the Philippines, over maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

It also comes weeks after US President Barack Obama assured the Philippines of his country's "ironclad" commitment to defend the Philippines which also just signed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement with the US.

The EDCA will give US forces greater access to Philippine military bases instead of letting them build their own.