FOREIGN ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian (Asean) Nations have endorsed a framework of a code of conduct (COC) for the South China Sea even as the Philippines reiterated its preference for a “legally binding document” , the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Saturday.
The foreign ministers from the 10-member bloc converged in Manila for the 50th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) to tackle political and security issues in the region.
In a press conference, Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said the framework was endorsed for adoption by both parties during the Asean-China meeting on Sunday.
“Yes, the ministers endorsed the framework of the code of conduct for eventual adoption [by]the Asean-China Ministerial meeting on August 6,” Bolivar told reporters.
Bolivar refused to give further details but reiterated that the Philippines’ position on the framework of the code of conduct was “preferably for a legally-binding document.”
Negotiations for an actual code have taken 15 years. The Asean and China adopted a non-binding “declaration of conduct” in 2002 to discourage hostile acts. All sides agreed not to use threats or force to assert claims.
But China refused to turn it into a legally binding “code of conduct”, using the intervening time to build its artificial islands.
Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan and Asean members like the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.