Duterte to try his best to have code of conduct in South China Sea in 3 years
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he would try his best to work for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between the Southeast Asian countries and China during the Philippine three-year tenure as its coordinator.
In an ambush interview in Singapore, Duterte said he made a "very strong statement" on Wednesday during the ASEAN-China Summit about the need to have a COC immediately.
"Well, you know I’m the country coordinator for ASEAN-China. I will try my best. I made a very strong statement yesterday about the urgent need for a COC so that everybody will know," he said when asked of the target three-year timeline for the COC.
"Because when you claim an ocean, the whole of it, then that is a new development in today’s world. So any sense, it would also change --- radical changes in the laws of governing international waters, particularly the right of free passage or the right of innocent passage," Duterte explained.
China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea even though it encroaches already on the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zones of other countries, such as the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Vietnam, all ASEAN members.
Duterte reiterated that he did not want "friction" in the disputed waters to result in "bad miscalculation."
"And all of these things, China is there. That’s a reality and America and everybody should realize that they are there. So if you just keep on creating friction, little friction, one day a bad miscalculation could turn things --- Murphy’s Law. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong," Duterte said.
He also expressed his opposition for military drills in the South China Sea in order to prevent further friction.
"So why do you have to create frictions...military activity that will prompt a response from China? I do not mind everybody going to war, except that the Philippines is just beside those islands. And if there’s a shooting there, my country will be the first to suffer. That’s my only in --- that is my only national interest there. Nothing else," he explained.
Despite the award to the Philippines by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, declaring China's historic and sovereign claim over the South China Sea through its nine-dash line as invalid, Beijing has refused to accept the ruling.
China even constructed artificial islands in the disputed waters and has also continued with its activities there despite calls for restraint. Celerina Monte/DMS