MANILA, July 31 (Xinhua) -- China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members made great progress in maintaining the stability in the South China Sea in the last three years, said the Philippine experts on international relations.
The experts told Xinhua in recent interviews that joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries to actively work on establishing a Code of Conduct (COC) for the sea will lead to enduring peace in the region.
The COC sets out norms of behavior in the contested waters of the South China Sea.
"I think there is a reason to be optimistic that possibly an effective COC will be concluded in the next three years," said Lucio Pitlo, the Chinese Studies Program lecturer at Philippine Ateneo de Manila University.
Pitlo said there are a lot of efforts in the past three years that suggest increasing confidence in dispute management mechanisms.
Since 2016, the related parties have agreed to set up a senior diplomat hotline to cope with maritime emergencies and apply the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea, which would help cement trust and avoid unexpected issues.
Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said the situation in the South China Sea is calm and stable at the moment.
"I see a productive direction between China and ASEAN," he said.
Banlaoi believed that the COC negotiations between China and ASEAN countries will be "very smooth, steady and productive" with the Philippines as country coordinator. "That is because the Philippines want to promote a stable and secure region that is being shared by China and ASEAN."
He said China's role "is very important in terms of promoting economic development and economic prosperity and we want China to share its economic prosperity to the region."
"And that is very essential. That is why ASEAN is truly engaging China economically because of the perception that we need China to develop and China also needs ASEAN to further develop. So, that's the spirit of China-ASEAN cooperation," Banlaoi added.
The DOC, signed by China and ASEAN countries in 2002, outlines the most important principles in the management of disputes on the South China Sea. Consultations for the COC were launched by the two sides in 2013. Both are aimed at safeguarding peace and stability in the region.
ASEAN, established in 1967, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.