Philippines committed to South China Sea code of conduct


The Philippines is firmly committed to negotiations for a code of conduct between China and Southeast Asian countries to avert confrontations in the South China Sea, its foreign minister said on Thursday, Paralel.Az reports citing Reuters.

Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo also said tensions in the South China Sea were not all about a rivalry between superpowers the United States and China, and the Philippines, and others, had legitimate rights and interests to uphold.

Such view will "not help in an honest understanding of the situation," he told reporters.

"It obscures good judgment, actions that are clearly illegal in international law and against the U.N. charter are sometimes rationalised under the pretext of this rivalry."

He also voiced concern about regional tensions over nearby Taiwan and urged all parties to remain in direct contact.

The idea of a code of conduct was hatched more than two decades ago but parties only committed to begin the process in 2017. Little progress has been made, however, with negotiations on the contents of the code yet to move forward.

The issue is highly sensitive, with China's neighbours keen to base the code on international law, which Beijing has repeatedly been accused of disregarding in asserting its claim to sovereignty over 90% of the South China Sea, despite that being dismissed by an international arbitration court.

"We are concerned about developments in our exclusive economic zone," Manalo said.

The Philippines and neighbour China have been at loggerheads this past year over maritime territory, with Manila accusing Beijing of repeatedly committing aggressive acts inside its EEZ. China has chided the Philippines for encroaching on what it says is its territory.

The row has intensified at a time when the Philippines has ramped up defence engagements with the United States, including expanding access to its bases and a series of military exercises and patrols at sea, vexing Beijing.

Manalo said a high-level "2+2" meeting of the defence and foreign ministers of the Philippines and United States was planned and dates not yet been finalised.