Talks on South China Sea COC ‘unavoidable’ at Asean: DFA

MANILA It is unavoidable that the proposed Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea will be brought up in the discussions during the 35th Asean Summit and Related Summits in Bangkok, Thailand from Nov. 2 to 4, a foreign affairs official said on Monday.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said President Rodrigo Duterte would likely renew his push for the completion of the COC for parties in the highly-disputed waters.

I think it (COC) will be featured in the discussions. It's unavoidable. Kasi doon sa meeting na 'yun ng mga leaders (Because in that meeting of leaders), they will have a parang (something like) tour of the horizon of what's happening throughout the region, Mahilum-West said in a Palace briefing.

I wouldn't want to preempt what the President would say. But in terms of looking at the conditions, the situation on the ground or at sea in the South China Sea, for example, I think the President would be expected to say something about it, she added.

She said all participating countries could also be expected to give their positions on the COC but clarified that there will not be any intensive negotiations done during the Asean meeting.

As to intensive negotiations, we don't expect that will happen in this meeting in these kinds of meetings, Mahilum-West said.

Mahilum-West said apart from the Asean Plenary Summit on Nov. 2, the President will also attend the opening ceremony followed by the Asean-China Summit, and then the Asean-India Summit, Asean-United Nations Summit, and Gala Dinner on November 3.

On Nov. 4, the President will attend the Asean Plus Three Summit (10 member-states of Asean plus China, Japan and Korea), the Asean-US Summit, the Special Lunch on Sustainable Development, the 14th East Asia Summit, Asean-Japan Summit, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Summit or RCEP, she added.

She said there will also be major side events during the summit which are the Asean Business and Investment Summit, the Mekong-Japan Summit Working Dinner, and the Indo-Pacific Business Forum.

The DFA official said there will be 40 anticipated outcome documents signed at the end of the 35th Asean Summit.

Meanwhile, Thailand will be handing over the chairmanship of Asean to Vietnam in a ceremony on November 12.

Joining Duterte in his trip to Thailand are Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, among others who have yet to be bared.

Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje said his office is still firming up the delegation based on agenda items and the talking points of the President.

Borje said to date, Duterte is expected to attend all Asean meetings from Nov. 2 to 4 but will send Locsin as his representative in case he is unable to attend.

The annual summit will be attended by leaders and delegates from member-states, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Other world leaders like those from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and the United Nations are also expected to grace the 35th Asean Summit.

In a media interview, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said it remains uncertain if the President will attend the 2019 Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in Chile next month but gave no further details. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency