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Philippines, China Code of Conduct at WPS may soon be adopted–Aquino

THE Philippines and China inched closer to forging a final agreement on the long-proposed Code of Conduct covering the West Philippine Sea, which Beijing claims to be an extension of its territories on the South China Sea.

President Aquino, in a talk with Filipino journalists during a break in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Bali, Indonesia, expressed optimism that a Code of Conduct may soon be adopted.

“Both sides are conscious that no action shall be taken to exacerbate the situation,” President Aquino said.

He recalled that for the past 10 years, talks to forge an early accord on the Code of Conduct binding countries with conflicting territorial claims in the resource-rich region barely made progress.

“But now, there are meetings leading toward adopting the code,” Mr. Aquino said, adding, “now its in the forefront of everyone’s mind as to how we can speed up the process of forging and finally agreeing on having one  such code.”

The President acknowledged, however, that while both sides were conscious of the need to draft a Code of Conduct, this will still take some hard work.

“I cannot say we are that close to signing the Code of Conduct, but everyone is now convinced that we need to talk about it. So, the solution is now moving forward to end the territorial disputes in the South China or West Philippine Sea,” Mr. Aquino added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government defended its allies from accusations made by China that they are intervening in the West Philippine Sea dispute.

Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the United States, Australia and Japan have interests in the disputed areas to protect freedom of navigation.

“A big percentage of world’s trade passes through our waters, the waters that is a subject of dispute right now. Do they have an interest? Yes, they have an interest because of freedom of navigation,” Lacierda said.

China on Monday asked the three nations to refrain from dipping their hands into the disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

The US, Australia and Japan issued a joint statement opposing the “coercive or unilateral actions” in maritime disputes during a trilateral strategic dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic leaders’ conference in Bali, Indonesia.

China and Japan are in a long-standing row over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. China is also in a territorial dispute with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam over the Spratly Islands.

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