MANILA - Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said Tuesday he will push for the completion of the second reading of the Single Draft Code of Conduct Negotiating Text (SDNT) of ASEAN and China on the South China Sea after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the scheduled meetings.
In a tweet, Locsin said he is determined to get through the third reading of the proposed code before the Philippines hands over the role as ASEAN-China Country Coordinator to Myanmar next year.
“No, I did not urge; I don't do urge. I declared that as China Coordinator, I will push through to the 2nd Draft and get started on the 3rd before handing the China Coordinatorship to my brother Myanmar," Lacson said.
"That is what I am honor bound to do,” he added.
The Philippines and Myanmar form part of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam complete the bloc.
The Code of Conduct seeks to upgrade the looser ASEAN and China's 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, with ASEAN diplomats hoping to achieve an effective and substantive pact to manage tensions in the disputed waters.
ASEAN and China completed the first reading of the proposed code in 2018-2019. A total of Three Readings were being planned, with 2021 being eyed as when the code should already be mapped out.
An Indonesian diplomat had said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN and China had scheduled negotiations on the issue in Brunei in February, in the Philippines in May, in Indonesia in August, and in China in October, focusing on completion of the second reading of the code of conduct.
At the ASEAN-China foreign ministerial meeting on Sept. 9, Locsin “encouraged fellow ASEAN Member States and China to resume discussions” after the COVID-19 outbreak, “and the ensuing restrictions imposed on travel and movement, precluded scheduled face-to-face meetings.”
“It is imperative to bring everyone back to the negotiating table to demonstrate to the world that we are sincerely committed and determined to arrive at a conclusive result, one way or the other; but we must get down to sincere and serious work,” Locsin was quoted by the Department of Foreign Affairs to have said.
“As a community of law-abiding nations, we emphasize that disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” he added, according to a DFA statement.
Aside from China and the Philippines, the other claimants in the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, in the same meeting on Sept. 9, ASEAN thanked China for its US$ 1-million contribution to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund and the allocation of $5 million to the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund for public health emergency efforts and projects.
“China also reiterated its previous pronouncements to make its COVID-19 vaccine a global public good,” the DFA said.
The new coronavirus disease, which has infected more than 29.3 million people across the world, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, is believed to have originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
The disease has claimed the lives of 928,576, as of Tuesday.have
- with reports from Kyodo News