DFA: Negotiations on COC in South China Sea to continue next year

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MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Thursday stated that negotiations on a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea will resume next year.

According to Manalo, discussions were stalled for at least two years due to the challenges caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“They will most likely continue again next year. In fact, the talks, the negotiations actually, not just talks, are actually taking place on a regular schedule,” he said in a CNN interview. “The problem is when Covid came, there was a two-year gap in the negotiations because there were no in-person meetings, but they are now continuing.”

Manalo stated that at least two or three rounds of negotiations are expected to happen in 2023.

He expressed optimism that negotiations may be concluded within one or two years, but acknowledged that “technical issues” pose a challenge.

“It’s quite a technical exercise because it would really be a code. What’s important in our point of view is that it should be substantive and effective,” Manalo said. “My hope is in one or two years but just another issue is, of course, this involves negotiations amongst 11 countries. All I can say is we will do our best to conclude it at the earliest possible time.”

Last month, Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretary General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi stated that China and the bloc are collaborating on the COC’s second draft.

House committees to hold hearings during break

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Spread the loveMANILA – The House of Representatives has authorized for its committees to conduct hearings during the five-week congressional break, extending until late April.