Aquino 'optimistic' ASEAN summit will yield West PHL Sea code of conduct

President Benigno Aquino III is "optimistic" that the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Brunei will yield a unified code of conduct on the West Philippine (South China) Sea, one of his spokespersons said Tuesday. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino will push for the crafting of the code in the ASEAN summit, which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday in Brunei's capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan. "We're optimistic that we will see progress because of the 22nd summit... Because may bago nang chairman doon sa ASEAN, mag-iiba na rin 'yung priorities," Valte said at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. The ASEAN is a regional organization composed of the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. During its last summit, the ASEAN failed for the first time to issue a joint communique, supposedly due to resistance from Cambodia, which chaired last year's meeting. Philippine officials said Cambodia's supposed resistance was due to its closeness with China, which has been asserting its historical claim on the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan and China, have overlapping territorial claims on parts of the West Philippine Sea. Valte expressed confidence that Brunei's chairmanship will enable ASEAN countries to tackle pressing problems in the region. "Brunei, as chair, has now set their own list of priorities for the agenda to be taken up in the summits to follow. Regardless of the chairmanship, we've been consistent in pushing for our interventions," she said. Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah went on a brief state visit to the Philippines last week, when he discussed the agenda of the ASEAN summit with Aquino. Aquino will fly to Brunei for the summit on Wednesday afternoon. He will be joined by his spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario, Finance chief Cesar Purisima; Trade chief Gregory Domingo, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, and Socio-economic Planning chief Arsenio Balisacan. — BM, GMA News

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