ASEAN fast-tracking West PHL Sea COC — DFA

BORACAY Island — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) here is fast-tracking the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) to address the mounting tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

This was stressed by Foreign Affairs Spokesman and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose in a press briefing at the Alta Vista dwe Boaracay in Malay, Aklan Sunday.

“I think officials of both sides are working very hard to be able to meet this deadline, regardless on the part of the ASEAN, I think all ASEAN member states would like to see the early conclusion of the negotiation of actual Code of Conduct which I think will be useful for managing the region and in regulating the future behavior of the parties concerned in the South China Sea region,” Jose told reporters in attendance.

The target date of the COC framework is 2017 and all members of the ASEAN are making extra effort to finish the job which is long overdue.

“The Philippines being this year’s Asian host, would prefer not to escalate the tension because while they were talking to ASEAN for a possible COC, they are actually doing something else on the ground,” Jose said referring to escalating rhetoric between China and US which is also fanning tensions among affected members of the ASEAN.

“The COC is a legally binding document. Hopefully, since they are coming up with the framework and will be trying to put flesh on the framework so long as we go along towards the final negotiated COC,” he added.

According to Jose, we have waited for many years in order to create a new dimension that will defuse tension among claimants of the disputed Spratly Islands.

“I think China is sincere in maintaining peace and stability and for managing tensions in the area,” he noted.

Asked about the time frame, Jose declined to give specifics but assured concerned nations that they are working hard to attain peace and stability in the region which will be guided by the framework of the COC.

ASEAN member states and China signed the Declaration of Conduct (DOC), the mother of COC in November 2002 in Cambodia after years of negotiations.

The DOC embodies the collective commitment of ASEAN to promote confidence-building measures, engage in practical maritime cooperation, and set the stage for the discussion and conclusion of a formal and binding COC.

Jose stressed that the DOC has, by and large, “helped maintain the overall stability in the South China Sea.”

It has served as a platform for all disputant parties to communicate and exchange views. Some believe that the DOC at least has served as a moral constraint on all claimant states in the South China Sea.