South China Sea code of conduct "unavoidable" topic in ASEAN summit - DFA
The crafting of a code of conduct in the South China Sea is an "unavoidable" topic during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Thailand this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.
In a press briefing in Malacanang, Assistant Foreign Secretary for the Office of ASEAN Affairs Junever Mahilum-West said President Rodrigo Duterte, who will join the other ASEAN leaders from November 2-4 in Bangkok, is likely to say something about the matter.
"I think it will be featured in the discussions. It's unavoidable. Because in the meeting of the leaders, they will have like tour of the horizon of what's happening throughout the region," he said when asked if the "unresolved" COC could be discussed in the summit.
While she did not want to preempt what Duterte would say in the ASEAN meeting, the official said, "But in terms of looking at the conditions, the situation on the ground or at sea in the South China Sea, for example, I think the President would be expected to say something about it."
The Philippines, one of the four ASEAN claimant countries in the South China Sea, is the country coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations until 2021. The other claimants are Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
ASEAN has been trying to reach a code of conduct in the disputed waters with China, which has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea.
During the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, Duterte, who recently complained about unbearable pain on his pelvic region following a motorcycle accident recently, is expected to participate in all meetings.
"As of this point, we are prepared for all of the meetings. And we are under assumption - working under the assumption that the President will be attending," said Chief Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje in the same briefing when asked of Duterte possibly skipping some of the meetings.
But if the President would miss some of the meetings, he said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. would represent him.
There were instances in the past that Duterte skipped in some of the meetings in the leaders' gathering, such as the ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters that it was "uncertain" if Duterte would attend the APEC meeting in Santiago, Chile on November 16-17.
Before Duterte leaves for Bangkok either on November 1 or 2, Panelo said the President would visit first the grave of his parents in Davao City to mark the All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Celerina Monte/DMS