Philippines hails progress on COC talks between China, ASEAN

MANILA, April 4 -- China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made progress in talks on the framework of the Code of Conduct(COC) in the South China Sea, Philippines' top diplomat said Tuesday.

"We have made good progress on coming up with a framework of the COC with China. From a scale of 1 to 10, we are at the upper level. And we are starting from zero in January," Philippine Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo told a forum.

"There have been a number of elements agreed and we would definitely have a framework on which to embark on a serious of negotiations on a code of conduct," he added at the forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

Once the framework is agreed, it would then be possible to begin discussions on the code that can be used to manage the sea dispute peacefully, he said.

ASEAN leaders will discuss later this month in Manila the progress in the ongoing efforts by China and ASEAN to craft the framework for the COC, Manalo said.

The leaders will discuss issues that promote peace, security and stability in the region, including non-traditional security threats, as well as maritime security and cooperation, he said.

The Philippines is the chair of ASEAN meetings this year, which is the 50th anniversary year.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will chair the upcoming ASEAN summit later this month, the first of the two leaders' summits this year.

Manalo said Duterte "will raise issues which would support or enhance greater ASEAN centrality and involvement in regional issues and promote ASEAN unity."

"We seek to set the tone of the next 50 years for ASEAN with our priorities and initiatives. Our goal is to advance common interests, all aligned toward the realization of a truly rules-based, people-oriented, people-centered community," Manalo said.

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