Code of Conduct in WPS up at Asean meet

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President Benigno Aquino 3rd will seek an update on discussions on the binding code that would govern actions of claimant countries in the South China Sea when he attends the closing sessions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Myanmar next week, a Philippine government official said on Friday.

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Beijing and the Asean both agree there is a need to conclude talks on the Code of Conduct  (COC) of parties in the South China Sea, which Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Luis Cruz told a media briefing in Malacañang.

He said the countries agreed to a peaceful settlement of disputes and advocacy to primacy of rule of law. As such, the Philippines expects a push from the Asean to come up with the Code of Conduct at the soonest time possible.

The declaration, signed by China and Asean in 2002, aims to reduce political tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

The code, on the other hand, is a more binding edict enshrined in the declaration. It hopes to further promote peace and stability in the economically vital sea lane.

Last year, the 10-member bloc also met with China to discuss the implementation of the declaration and the conclusion of the code.

Although the multilateral meeting was a first for China since the disputes began in 2012, no consensus was reached in terms of agreeing to the early conclusion of the COC and the easing of aggressive steps in claiming territories in the region.

China and the Philippines continue to be embroiled in a territorial dispute over potentially oil-rich parts of the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea. Manila has elevated the matter to a United Nations tribunal, a move which China continuously rejected.

Besides China and the Philippines, other claimants to the West Philippine Sea include Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

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