Foreign ministers in Southeast Asia want to resume talks with China on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In a statement on Wednesday, DFA said the ministers met on Monday to discuss peace prospects in the region.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. called for “full support and sincere cooperation to achieve our collective aspiration for the South China Sea to be a sea of peace, security, stability and prosperity.”

The sea should not be “a moat between the members of the family of Southeast Asian nations but a wide watery highway for trade and connection,” he said.

The foreign ministers had also reiterated their commitment for the full implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, DFA said.

They also expressed concern about the situation in Myanmar. Mr. Locsin also pushed for a dialogue and reconciliation, restoration of the status quo before the military coup and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.

The meeting marked the 30th anniversary of relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

China pledged continued support for ASEAN state members in addressing the coronavirus pandemic by providing vaccines, DFA said.

The Philippines has filed several diplomatic protests against China due to its continued presence within the country’s exclusive economic zone in the disputed sea.

An international tribunal in 2016 favored the Philippines and rejected China’s claim to more than 80% of the disputed waterway based on a 1940s map. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas