Code of Conduct in West Philippine Sea, a major thrust in next ASEAN meeting, says President Aquino

MANILA - President Benigno S. Aquino III said he will ask for an update on the discussion on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) when he attends the closing sessions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar next month.
"Number one is, we will ask for an update of precisely what has transpired after the agreement with regard to pushing for the Code of Conduct," the President said when asked about the issue during the annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Marco Polo Ortigas on Wednesday.
He said he understands that there have been at least two preliminary discussions before the formal talks on the Code of Conduct.
Asked about the status of the relations between the Philippines and China, the Chief Executive said that it has not changed much since tensions escalated in the West Philippine Sea.
He however noted that when he visited China in 2011, his counterpart then, Hu Jintao, acknowledged that the tensions in the West Philippine Sea should not be the end-all and be-all of their relationship, which was described as multifaceted.
The President also said that trade between the two countries continues to grow and the number of tourists from both countries has increased despite China’s advisory against travel to the Philippines.
The promise of cultural assistance from China, such as the provision of Mandarin instructors, is happening, he said, citing information from the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce.
"Hopefully, we can really move on that Code of Conduct with China as an active participant so that we can introduce a regime of stability based on rules that everybody acknowledges that we are bound to,” President Aquino said.

The ASEAN and China in 2002 agreed on the non-binding Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
Aside from China and the Philippines, other claimants to the West Philippine Sea include Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

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