Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Enrique Manalo said on Thursday that South China Sea will be one of the agenda to be discussed throughout the Philippines' chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year.
"The issue of the South China Sea, of course, is in the agenda of the ASEAN," Manalo said in a Palace briefing.
"In fact, we will be undertaking ongoing work throughout the year focusing on the unfinished Code of Conduct of the South China Sea and the Declaration of the Code of Conduct and the principles of the Code of Conduct," he added.
Manalo said one of the main goals, in cooperation with ASEAN countries and China, is to try and arrive at a framework for the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea by the end of the year.
"I think all of this work will be consistent with the environment that we are now facing on the South China Sea, on how we can address the disputes, not only the Philippines but our other members of ASEAN as well," he said.
Manalo, however, said the Philippines will not touch arbitral ruling on the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
"Actually, there's no need to really discuss The Hague ruling because it already exists. It's already part of the international law, so it's there. I think the priority now is to try and get a Code of Conduct," he explained.
He said the purpose of the Code of Conduct is how the disputes can be managed in a peaceful way and in a non-confrontational way.
Manalo clarified that the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is only between ASEAN and China.
"The ASEAN Plus Three (Japan, China, and South Korea) does not tackle this issue," Manalo said.
The Philippines assumed the ASEAN chairmanship last January 1 with the theme: "We Are Partners for Change Engaging the World."
Manalo said the six thematic priorities that the Philippines will pursue during its ASEAN chairmanship are people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN; peace and stability in the region; maritime security and cooperation; inclusive innovation and growth; ASEAN's resiliency; and ASEAN as a model of regionalism and a global player.
"These thematic priorities shall guide the work of the relevant Philippine government departments and agencies throughout the year," Manalo said.
Source: Philippines News Agency