PH seeks early conclusion of South China Sea Code of Conduct

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has sought for the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat.

He said the Code of Conduct, which will determine the actions that countries can take in disputed areas of the South China Sea, should be inclusive and not give undue advantage to any nation.

"We want an early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that excludes no country or power in the rest of the world," Locsin said during the event in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Thursday.

"The COC will not nor can it claim for itself the sea after which it is named," he also said. "That would curtail the immemorial freedom of the seas and international law."

ASEAN has been pushing for a legally-binding code for decades. The regional bloc earlier adopted the three-year timeline proposed by China, eyeing 2022 for the completion of the Code of Conduct which will determine the only allowable actions parties can take in the contested waters.

Locsin added that the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea should be commemorated in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) since the two landmark documents are "fundamentally and inextricably linked."

Meanwhile, the Philippines supported the proposal of Indonesia that the upcoming ASEAN-United States Summit should be closed to leaders-only activities.

Locsin rejected the proposed meeting between the members of the U.S. Congress and ASEAN leaders since he said it can conflate the separation of powers when foreign policy is the exclusive remit of the executive.