Marcos: PH has initiated separate talks on SCS code of conduct with other ASEAN members

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 21) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government has started negotiating a separate code of conduct (COC) with other ASEAN members that have maritime claims in the South China Sea as discussions involving China have been "slow."

Marcos bared the move to initiate an agreement with other claimant countries, such as Vietnam, during the Daniel Inouye Speaker Series in Hawaii on Monday (Philippine time).

"Because we are still waiting for the code of conduct between China and ASEAN, and the progress has been rather slow unfortunately and so we've taken the initiative to approach those other countries around ASEAN with whom we have existing territorial conflicts," the chief executive said.

"And to make our own code of conduct and hopefully this will grow further in the extent -- into the other ASEAN countries and at the very least we have that basis between -- not only in the multilateral sphere as in ASEAN or APEC, all of these other organizations but also bilaterally with the different countries around ASEAN whom we have conflicts with, but with whom, I think, we can find a way to maintain the status quo," he added.

This disclosure of Marcos, however, did not sit well with China.

Asked about this development, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning warned that "any departure from the DOC (Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in South China Sea) framework and its spirit will be null and void."

"Formulating a code of conduct in the South China Sea is an important task for China and ASEAN countries to implement the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," Mao said.

At the forum, the president likewise said China's military bases in the disputed waters have come "closer and closer" to the Philippine coastline.

READ: Marcos: China's military bases in WPS now 'closer' to PH coastline

But Mao maintained that China was only "carrying out construction activities on its own territory…"

"[It] is a matter purely within the scope of China's sovereignty and other countries have no right to point fingers at it," Mao said.

Marcos has said the Philippines "will not give up a single square inch of our territory to any foreign power."

He also said his administration will continue to forge stronger ties with more countries, especially the United States, amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

READ: Marcos: WPS tensions 'require' US-PH partnership