ASEAN foreign ministers are expected to issue a statement expressing deep concern over the growing tension in the South China Sea, saying it threatens the safety of people, after their two-day meeting in Laos starting on Sunday.

During the two days of meetings, the top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are expected to discuss the South China Sea disputes, the Myanmar crisis, the North Korean threats, and the wars in Ukraine and Israel.

While the foreign ministers will avoid mentioning the series alarming incidents between the Chinese and Philippine coast guards last year,they will express concern how the territorial face-offs were putting the safety of people in peril.

The statement will likely be issued by the Laotian chair on behalf of the ASEAN ministers on Monday.

Laos is this year’s chairman of the 10-country bloc, which also includes the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

The statement on the South China Sea disputes will be issued amid growing international concern over a series of tense confrontations and incidents last year between the Philippines and China in several highly contentious areas in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, which the Philippines calls Ayungin, and Scarborough Shoal, which Filipinos call Bajo de Masinloc.

China will not be mentioned in the draft statement. Nor will specific details of the most recent incidents in the contested waters as has been the practice in the past of the conservative ASEAN. The regional grouping relies heavily as a bloc and individually as state members on Beijing for trade and investment, tourism and infrastructure financing.

Such advocacy lines like promoting the peaceful resolution of disputes and upholding a rules-based order based on international law, including UNCLOS, have, however, been repeatedly used by the ASEAN and western nations led by the United States to refer to China and its increasingly assertive behavior in the disputed waters.

In a Jan. 17 meeting in Shanghai, the Philippines and China agreed to deescalate tensions in the South China Sea and vowed to improve existing maritime communication mechanisms to prevent incidents and any miscalculations in the disputed waters that could cause a much bigger conflict.

China has continued issuing aggressive statements about the Philippines, including one that said President Marcos should “read more” to learn the facts about Taiwan.The President, who begins a state visit in Vietnam next week, is expected to discuss maritime and regional issues, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.