China is looking forward to working with Southeast Asian nations in drafting the framework for the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, a Palace official said Tuesday.
The message was delivered by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua when he visited President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City on Monday, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
"His Excellency also expressed China’s determination to work with ASEAN members in finalizing the Code of Conduct framework on the South China Sea, sometime early—sometime in the middle of this year," Abella said.
"They intend to build a bilateral mechanism, mutual trust and maritime cooperation," Abella added.
The Chinese envoy also talked about "the successful meeting of the Philippines and Chinese Coast Guards" in February, and told Duterte that "China is ready to implement" the agreement that involves
cooperation in combating drug trafficking, search and rescue, environment protection, and emergency response in disputed waters.
Other issues discussed by Duterte and Chinese ambassador were possible deals on defense cooperation, capacity building, infrastructure projects financing, and the anti-poverty and anti-illegal drugs campaign, Abella said.
Since assuming presidency, Duterte has pivoted from Manila's traditional ally Washington to form closer ties with Beijing and Moscow.