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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Manila hosts 3-day ASEAN-China meeting on SCS Code of Conduct

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Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China have resumed discussions on the long-planned Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

Manila is hosting the three-day dialog that gathers diplomats from the region, including those from five out of six claimant counties in the SCS, namely China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Taiwan is also a claimant but is not a member state of ASEAN.

As this developed, Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian welcomed the appointment of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as special envoy to China.

Locsin’s appointment came on the heels of heightened tensions between Manila and Beijing after a China Coast Guard ship fired a water cannon against Philippine Coast Guard vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission.

Huang likewise renewed his call for Manila and Beijing to peacefully settle maritime disputes.

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, however, said Beijing should recall Huang for peaceful talks to prosper, citing the ambassador’s previous statement that was perceived to be a threat against overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan.

“He should be replaced. He cannot be an effective diplomat in the Philippines if he continues to aggravate tensions rather than assuage them,” Hontiveros said.

For her part, Senator Imee Marcos underscored the need to continue talking to China to resolve maritime disputes but said everything should be documented properly this time around

“We should document every attempt by our diplomats, Coast Guard, and military personnel to communicate with China to the extent permissible,” she said.

“We should make records of these attempts accessible to neutral third parties so that they may verify our efforts and China’s responses thereto. In this way, the world can ascertain both countries’ sincerity in engaging in genuine dialogue,” she said.

Locsin, in a previous post on Twitter/X, said the Philippines has no plans of going to war with China.

“The Philippines has zero interest in going to war with China which for now it suspects will only prompt the US to offer its good offices to broker a peace between the Philippines and China which is not needed because we are at peace with each other though there maybe something for the US brokering a superfluous and redundant peace. We’re not stupid,” Locsin said.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said war should never be an option for countries amid changing geopolitical landscapes in the region.

“Nobody really wants a major conflict because the alternative is a disaster for the entire world,” Romualdez said in a television interview.

But he debunked claims of Beijing that the United States was driving conflict in the region.

“That is absolutely not true. The involvement of the US with the Philippines has been around for a long time,” he said.

For her part, Senator Imee Marcos underscored the need to continue talking to China to resolve maritime disputes but said everything should be documented properly this time around.

“We should document every attempt by our diplomats, Coast Guard, and military personnel to communicate with China to the extent permissible,” she said.

“We should make records of these attempts accessible to neutral third parties so that they may verify our efforts and China’s responses thereto. In this way, the world can ascertain both countries’ sincerity in engaging in genuine dialogue,” she said.

Hammering out a binding COC is one of the efforts to minimize tensions in disputed waters in the region.

Department of Foreign Affairs Office of Maritime and Ocean Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce is leading the Philippine delegation to the COC talks.

Negotiations on the COC are held twice a year. Jakarta hosted in March the last round of talks.

 

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