ASEAN to strengthen dialogue, partnership with China – DFA

MANILA-- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to issue two important outcome documents this week that would strengthen cooperation and dialogue with China, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

In a Palace briefing, DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said the foreign ministers of ASEAN are expected to endorse the Framework on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as well as the extension of the ASEAN-China Center.

Bolivar said the foreign ministers will endorse the framework during their meeting on August 6 in Manila.

We have a commitment from ASEAN and China to finalize, to approve the framework of the Code of Conduct within the chairmanship year of the Philippines. Having said that, we expect that the foreign ministers will endorse the framework as it is currently approved by the senior officials last May, the DFA official said.

He said the endorsement of the framework is a very big step towards achieving the actual Code of Conduct.

The framework basically presents an outline of the Code of Conduct. So after it is endorsed, after the approvals process has been done, dealt with, we expect that the talks on the actual Code of Conduct will begin in earnest, Bolivar said.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte has committed to complete a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea to avoid the escalation of tension in the region during the Philippines' chairmanship year of ASEAN.

Duterte has repeatedly emphasized the importance of peace in the South China Sea, where around 80 percent of global trade passes through.

In the meantime, Bolivar said that the extension of the mandate of the ASEAN-China Center will further strengthen regional cooperation with China.

ASEAN maintains different "Centers" with several of its dialogue partners.

According to the DFA official, the ASEAN�China Center is responsible for facilitating functional cooperation between ASEAN and China in the field of academics, science and technology, cultural exchanges among others.

So we have an institution, if you will, that facilitates this cooperation and that is the Center. And the Ministers have decided to renew the mandate of the Center because I believe it expired late last year, he said.

I believe there will be a signing ceremony for the MOU (memorandum of understanding) on the extension of the mandate of the ASEAN�China Center. And that is a very concrete manifestation of the renewed commitment between ASEAN and China to further strengthen the partnership, Bolivar said.

Foreign ministers and senior officials from 27 countries will gather in Manila for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings at the Philippine International Convention Center on August 2 to 8.

According to Bolivar, the annual AMM and its related meetings bring together the foreign ministers of ASEAN; ASEAN Plus Three which is China, Japan, Korea; the East Asia Summit; and the ASEN Regional Forum; as well as the Post-Ministerial Conferences where ASEAN meets with each of its 10 dialogue partners.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano will chair the 50th AMM; the 18th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting; the 7th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting; and the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum.

Source: Philippine News Agency