MANILA -- The Philippines has officially taken over from Singapore the role of country coordinator for the China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Dialogue.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said the Philippines' coordinatorship began Thursday, right after a meeting between the foreign ministers of ASEAN and China.

DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, before leaving for Singapore, said the Philippines will be playing a "crucial role" as the country coordinator for the dialogue, particularly as both parties work towards the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

"We have a very good window to not only include but make part of the whole code of conduct the protection of marine environment," he told reporters in a press conference last week.

The 10-member bloc and China have already expressed hopes on the COC's conclusion by November 2018, when ASEAN leaders and its dialogue partners meet for the ASEAN Summit.

Meanwhile, the joint communique of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting revealed that ASEAN and China had agreed on a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text during the 15th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC on June 27. (PNA)