COC talks to reduce misunderstanding: Lorenzana

MANILA -- With ASEAN and China agreeing to start talks on a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, threats of miscalculation and misunderstanding among claimant countries will be greatly reduced, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.

"I think so, kasi sila (China) mismo ang nagsasabi na gusto na nila (They themselves are saying that they want it). So I believe they are sincere. The President (Rodrigo Duterte) also believes that they are sincere and we are pursuing that, together with the other claimants, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and us. We will be going to the table and talk about things that will benefit everybody," Lorenzana said when asked whether the COC would be productive for all parties concerned.

With parties talking, a major benefit is that there would be no miscalculation and misunderstanding among the claimants, he added.

The defense chief also said that Filipino fishermen could continue fishing in the disputed waters and the Philippines could continue developing islands under its control and jurisdiction.

"(Ang) benepisyo natin dyan (Our benefit) is there will be no miscalculation, misunderstanding Merong unlimited access ang ating mga fishermen (Our fishermen will have unlimited access), and at the same time, we are going to continue developing the islands under our control," he said.

On Monday, ASEAN leaders and China have agreed to start talks on the Code of Conduct based on the Framework approved by the Foreign Ministers in August.

China has graciously agreed to a Code of Conduct and it binds itself to the agreement, Duterte said following the conclusion of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits Tuesday.

He said China also pledged to adhere to the international principle of freedom of navigation and overflight in the strategic sea, where an estimated USD3 trillion worth of trade passes every year.

Source: Philippine News Agency