CHINA is in favor of instituting a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte said at the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit hosted by Manila.
Duterte said that this gesture on the part of China was one of the outcomes of the 50th Asean Summit chaired by the Philippines on top of the signing of an agreement for the protection of promotion of the rights of migrant workers in Southeast Asia.
“At the ministerial level of the Asean, they are working on it (Code of Conduct). China has graciously agreed to a Code of Conduct, and it will bind itself to the agreement,” Duterte said.
Five out of seven claimant countries are Asean members: the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Non-Asean claimants in South China Sea include China and Taiwan.
“They (China) want to proceed with this promise, and they want it fast- tracked,” Duterte added.
The claims of Asean members and Taiwan are based on their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ) set at 200 nautical miles away from shore under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, while China is claiming the entire South China Sea based on its nine-dash line theory.
The Asean has an existing Declaration of Code of Conduct with China which provides that “parties should undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
The non-legally binding Asean-DOC, however, did not stop China from taking aggressive moves in the South China Sea, prompting Manila to bring the issue before the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013.
The UN Tribunal eventually ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016 by rejecting China’s nine-dash line theory and declaring that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank in South China Sea were within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ.