BORACAY, Philippines – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China "are working very hard" to beat their self-imposed deadline for the framework of a code of conduct (COC) in the disputed South China Sea, the Philippines said.
"I think there's already a commitment on the part of ASEAN and China to come up with a framework of the COC by mid-2017," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose told reporters here on Sunday, February 19.
"So I think officials of both sides are working very hard to be able to meet this deadline," Jose added.
Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Enrique Manalo earlier said that ASEAN, which the Philippines is chairing this year, aims to arrive at a framework COC also within the year.
The proposed COC is a binding agreement to ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.
The framework COC is a huge step toward finalizing the COC itself.
"There was a fresh momentum," Jose said, referring to the negotiations between ASEAN and China over a COC, which have been ongoing for 10 years.
"It was only recently when there was a big push, so that's why we're coming out with at least a framework by 2017, so that's already a significant step toward concluding the final code of conduct," he said.
Jose added, "I think even China is onboard toward concluding this COC."
The DFA spokesman made these remarks as ASEAN foreign ministers prepare to meet in Boracay, one of the Philippines' top tourist spots, on Tuesday, February 21.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.