ASEAN to discuss Code of Conduct, unsure if Recto Bank incident will be tackled: DFA
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday said ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) leaders will discuss the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea but cannot confirm if the incident in Recto Bank will be discussed during 34th ASEAN Summit.
In a press briefing, Foreign Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said the Code of Conduct in under the agenda item of regional and international developments.
“South China Sea will be on the agenda and the leaders are going to exchange views on this issue,” West said.
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to visit Bangkok for the ASEAN summit on June 22.
“As you know the Philippines is coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership from 2018 to 2021, for three years. And during this coordinatorship, we are negotiating ASEAN Member States and China on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, on the South China Sea,” she added.
West said she say for now if the incident in Recto Bank where 22 Filipino fishermen were allegedly abandoned after colliding with a Chinese ship will be discussed.
“And in these negotiations, incidents like what happened to our fishermen will be among those on the agenda, during the negotiations. It can be during the exchange of views on regional developments, there is an opening to raise these issues. Because incidents like what happened, emphasized the importance of having a Code of Conduct so that we could avoid, we could prevent these incidents from happening in the future,” she explained.
She said it’s premature to confirm if the issue will be raised since the investigation on the incident is ongoing.
“But also there are pending major factors that we have to wait for. For one thing, there is this investigation that’s ongoing, that up to the present discloses a certain fact that we did not know before,” West said.
“Also, we lodged a strong protest with China and we are awaiting China’s response to this. So in the meantime that these major factors are pending, I think it would be premature of me to --- premature of me to say that we will raise the issue at the summit,” she added.
Asked on the progress of the Code of Conduct, West said prior to the summit, the joint working group between the ASEAN Member States and China have been negotiating on a single draft negotiating text.
“They have made progress, and they expect to have the first reading finished by end of this year. So to be followed by several readings, one or two readings afterwards,” she said.
She said the incident in Recto Bank shows why there is a need for a code to prevent these incidents and for the countries to know how they should handle the situation.
“As I’ve said before, it’s precisely why we need a code so that these incidents could be taken on board and we would have a guideline for countries in the region on how to behave, on how to act in order to prevent these incidents that caused some --- that might cause tension in the region,” she added.
Duterte on Monday said he will wait for the investigation results before making a statement on the incident.
He called the collision in the Recto Bank a “little maritime incident”. Ella Dionisio/DMS