THE Philippines and Thailand on Tuesday emphasized the need to complete the long-delayed framework for the Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) this year.
This was highlighted at the first day of President Rodrigo Duterte's official visit to Thailand.
In a joint statement, Duterte said the two countries agreed that there is a need to fast-track the discussions on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and eventually finish the COC.
“Both sides emphasized the need for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and expressed determination to complete the framework of the Code of Conduct in 2017,” the Chief Executive said.
“We both also stressed the need to maintain peace and stability in the region, including the South China Sea. We recognized both that respect for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the interest of all countries within or outside the region,” he added.
The proposed COC is a binding agreement that will ensure peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines, as well as China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan, lay claim to some part of the contested waters. Thailand is not a claimant but had urged China and rival claimants to the West Philippine Sea to go beyond border disputes and find ways to ease tensions in the region.
On July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China’s claim to most parts of the West Philippine Sea has no basis.
Despite international court’s ruling on the West Philippine Sea favoring the Philippines, Duterte has maintained his position to invoke the Philippines’ rights over the disputed islands at a proper time.
Meanwhile, Duterte was able to secure a deal with Thai officials, as the two countries forged three bilateral agreements, implementing arrangement on specific areas of cooperation on science and technology, tourism, and agriculture.
Duterte said his “reproductive and fruitful” dialogue with Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha also resulted in the potential military cooperation between the two countries, in a bid to address “traditional and emerging threats to our collective security and stability.”
“We underscored the importance of sustaining the growth and development we have so far achieved. In this regard, we stressed the need to address traditional and emerging threats to our collective security and stability. These include transnational crimes such as terrorism and violent extremism, piracy at the sea, as well as the trafficking of persons and illicit drugs,” Duterte said.
“We stressed the importance of our defense cooperation to achieve these goals and looked forward to the inaugural joint committee on military cooperation this year. Both sides emphasized the need to sustain the economic advancement we thus have far achieved,” he added.
The President also reaffirmed the “long-standing friendship, renewed common commitment to bring our countries and peoples closer in greater cooperation.”
He further said that the Philippines is hopeful of more investments coming from Thailand.
“With diplomatic relations for 67 years, we have proven record of collaboration. We can and should rightfully strive to achieve more,” Duterte said.
“As countries facing similar challenges and as brothers in Asean, we have the joint stake in keeping our relations always vibrant, always strong, and always geared towards upholding the greater and collective interests of our countries and our regions.” (SunStar Philippines)