ASEAN and Beijing are scheduled to sign a new framework agreement on the Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea maritime disputes, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Tuesday. The “Framework for a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” will be signed on Sunday in Manila during the ministerial summit between the Chinese foreign minister and those from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries, Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said.
Bolivar said the endorsement of this framework “will cement the commitment” of ASEAN and China on the COC talks that have taken years to finalise a mechanism to prevent conflicts in the disputed maritime area, reports Efe news.
The Philippines and three other ASEAN partners — Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam — are fighting alongside Taiwan and China for the sovereignty of several islands in the South China Sea, a strategic maritime area abundant in natural resources, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.
Territorial disputes with China, which also involve the jurisdiction claim over the Spratly Islands, among other maritime enclaves, have in recent years put the ASEAN internal cohesion to the test after its member countries like Cambodia or Laos chose to align with Beijing.
Other member countries of this regional bloc, which marks its 50th anniversary in 2017, include Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.
ASEAN members vowed in April to agree on the COC by the end of 2017. In May, the organisation and China signed the draft version in Beijing.