Duterte wants a legally binding South China Sea code

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 16 2017 04:33 PM

Premier Li Keqiang shakes hands with President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacanang Palace in Metro Manila, Nov. 15, 2017. Dondi Tawatao, Reuters

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte wants a legally binding Code of Code on the South China Sea, the Palace said Tuesday, following his meeting with Chinese leaders in regional meetings.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said a legally binding sea code would provide for predictability needed for peace and stability in the contested sea. 

He that a non-legally binding sea code would be merely "aspirational." 

"I think that was a priority of the President because unless it becomes legally binding, we would not achieve the kind of predictability that all the countries want in order to achieve peace and stability in the region," he told reporters. 

Meanwhile, Roque said he doubts whether the arbitral ruling the Philippines won in July 2016 would be a factor in the crafting of the code of conduct, as it "does not support multilateral solutions." 

Southeast Asian leaders and China have agreed to start negotiations on a more effective code of conduct on the South China Sea during the 31st ASEAN Summit held in the Philippines. 

ASEAN diplomatic sources said that the negotiations will begin in March in Vietnam, one of the claimants.

China and the Philippines have also agreed to avoid the use of force to resolve their differences over the disputed sea, according to a joint statement issued after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's Manila visit.

President Duterte also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the APEC Summit in Vietnam. He said they agreed that war over the South China Sea is not an option.