Marcos, Xi vow to ensure peace in South China Sea

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea and pushed for the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC).

This came as the two leaders met on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for their second in-person bilateral talk.

During their meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed the importance of Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and recalled their statement during the 20th anniversary of the DOC made during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summits in Cambodia in November.

The DOC was adopted in 2012 as ASEAN members and China agreed to abide by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, among other treaties.

Under the declaration, ASEAN members and China vowed to respect the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the contested waters as well as to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means.

In their bilateral discussion, Marcos and Xi expressed commitment to the full and implementation of the DOC in its entirety.

They also "encouraged further progress towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that is in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, within a mutually agreed timeline," according to their joint statement.

At the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Thailand in November, Marcos and Xi already expressed their support for the immediate crafting of the COC in a bid to manage regional differences and tensions.

Although the extent of their conversation about the long-standing maritime dispute was not elaborated on, they both agreed that "maritime issues do not define the totality of Philippines-China relations."

"Our foreign policy refuses to fall into the trap of a Cold War mindset. Ours is an independent foreign policy guided by our national interest and commitment to peace," the President said.

In an earlier date in Cambodia, Marcos pressured his fellow ASEAN leaders as well as the government of China to come up with a COC, citing its relevance as countries involved mark 40 and 20 years of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the DOC, respectively.

"It shall be an example of how states manage their differences: through reason and through right. I, therefore, welcome the progress on textual negotiations on the COC this past year and hopefully an approved code of conduct in the very near future," he said.

Currently, there are only minor developments in the crafting of COC two decades since ASEAN members made attempts to draft such a code.