By Roy Mabasa
The Department of Foreign Affairs is confident the draft Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea framework will be completed as scheduled by mid-2017.
“The level of commitment between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is high,” said DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar in a press briefing.
So far, Bolivar said the Joint Working Group on Implementing the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea have conducted two meetings. “Our hope is that the framework will be completed according to our commitment by mid-2017,” he said.
Last month, the 20th Joint Working Group Meeting on Implementing the DOC was held in Cambodia with China and ASEAN member-countries expressing their commitment to strengthening maritime practical cooperation, actively move forward consultations on the COC, and formulate a set of regional rules acceptable to all.
As far as China is concerned, parties concerned have returned to the right track of resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry noted that the DOC is being implemented in a comprehensive and effective way and the first draft of the COC has also taken shape.
Member states of ASEAN and China signed the DOC in November 2002 in Cambodia after several years of prolonged negotiations. The DOC was essentially a compromise between the two positions of doing nothing and having a legally-binding agreement. The text of the DOC reveals three purposes: promoting confidence-building measures, engaging in practical maritime cooperation, and setting the stage for the discussion and conclusion of a formal and binding COC.
Last year, ASEAN and Chinese foreign ministers issued a joint statement in Lao PDR wherein they reaffirmed the importance of the DOC which “embodies the collective commitment of the Parties to promote peace, stability, mutual trust and confidence in the region, in accordance with the UN Charter and universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”