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South China Sea on agenda of ASEAN throughout 2017 - DFA
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - The South China Sea will be part of the agenda throughout the Philippines’ chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2017, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"The issue of the South China Sea, of course, is in the agenda of the ASEAN," DFA Undersecretary Enrique Manalo said in a Palace briefing Thursday. "In fact, we will be undertaking ongoing work throughout the year focusing on the unfinished Code of Conduct of the South China Sea and the Declaration of the Code of Conduct and the principles of the Code of Conduct," he added.

Manalo said one of the main goals, in cooperation with ASEAN countries and China, is to try and arrive at a framework for the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea by the end of the year.

"I think all of this work will be consistent with the environment that we are now facing on the South China Sea, on how we can address the disputes, not only [for] the Philippines but our other members of ASEAN as well," he said.

Manalo, however, said the Philippines will not touch the UN-backed arbitral court's July 2016 ruling on the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

'Hague ruling now part of int'l law'

"Actually, there’s no need to really discuss The Hague ruling because it already exists. It’s already part of international law, so it’s there," Manalo said, in reference to the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that favored Manila's case against Beijing's "excessive" nine-dash-line claim in the SCS. "I think the priority now is to try and get a Code of Conduct," Manalo explained.

He said the purpose of the Code of Conduct is provide a guide as to how the disputes can be managed in a peaceful and non-confrontational way.

Manalo clarified that the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is only between ASEAN and China.

"The ASEAN Plus Three (Japan, China, and South Korea) does not tackle this issue," Manalo said.

The Philippines assumed the ASEAN chairmanship last January 1 with the theme: “We Are Partners for Change Engaging the World.”

Manalo said the six thematic priorities that the Philippines will pursue during its ASEAN chairmanship are:

• people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN;

• peace and stability in the region;

• maritime security and cooperation;

• inclusive innovation and growth;

• ASEAN’s resiliency; and

• ASEAN as a model of regionalism and a global player.

"These thematic priorities shall guide the work of the relevant Philippine government departments and agencies throughout the year," Manalo said.