The Philippine government welcomed the statement made by US State Secretary John Kerry, who voiced his concern about the conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a text message that Kerry’s statements are in line with the Philippines’ view to resolve the competing claims in the resource-rich region through a rules-based approach and in accordance to international law.
In a meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Secretary General Le Luong Minh at the headquarters in Jakarta, Kerry highlighted the importance of exercising self-restraint and the early conclusion of the COC.
“These comments are fully in line with the basic Philippine and Asean stance that we should move expeditiously to conclude a binding Code of Conduct in order to reinforce regional peace, security and stability,” Hernandez said.
COC, which basis is enshrined in the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct between China and Asean, aims to counter aggressive actions in the region and urges all claimant-states to ensure peace and stability in the resource-rich waters.
The COC, however, has no dispute settlement mechanism.
The US maintains a “strategic interest” in ensuring peace and stability in the region, a vital sea-lane of about $5-billion worth of global trade.
The Southeast Asia, Kerry said, is at the core of Washington’s repivot to Asia policy, which revived the US’ relationships with its allies in the region, particularly Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.
This came amid China’s increasing political, economic and military might in the region, which is said to be challenging Washington’s global superpower status.
The US is also helping the Philippines build a minimum credible defense posture to better patrol its territorial waters, which is under attack from Beijing based on the intrusion into Philippine-controlled Panatag Shoal in 2012.
China now controls the shoal.