MANILA - The Philippines and China would like to finish the draft of the South China Sea code within President Rodrigo Duterte's term, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier said he would like the code of conduct to be crafted before Duterte steps down, according to Malacañang.
"They’re (China) hoping we finish the first text in 3 years. 2021, I think," Locsin said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
The foreign affairs chief said Duterte brought up the matter to Xi during his counterpart's visit in Manila in November last year.
"The President when he met Xi Jinping here in Manila told him, 'This sea code is taking forever. Can we rush this so we can avoid all of these tensions and we know who’s right and who’s wrong when something happens?'" Locsin said.
"Xi Jinping said ‘why not’ and then he turned to his foreign minister. Then Wang Yi comes to me and says 'Is he serious?' Yeah he’s very serious."
Locsin said his counterpart told him to give Beijing "a kick" if they were "dawdling or delaying" the sea code.
"The result of that is China is mellowing, no longer insisting on the exclusion of foreign powers. And so I brought this basically to the enemies of China and some of our allies," he said.
"In other words there is a prospect of a fair, just and objective code of conduct in the South China Sea."
The South China Sea code was among the maritime issues raised by Duterte in his fifth visit to China last month.