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Aquino to attend Asean summit, sets no meeting with China
Publication Date : 03-10-2013
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is set to attend nine meetings at the 23rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Brunei next week but has arranged no bilateral discussions with China, which has occupied Scarbourough Shoal and lays claim on Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said on Wednesday that the Philippines would stick to its position that the territorial dispute would be best resolved in the arbitral tribunal and the completion of a Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea by the 10-member Asean.
“It never came up in our meetings,” Hernandez said when asked at a briefing in Malacañang whether there were efforts to schedule a bilateral meeting with Chinese leaders attending the Asean.
Hernandez reiterated that the territorial issues between the Philippines and China “are being addressed in different fora,” referring to the ongoing arbitration and the completion of the Code of Conduct.
Relations between the Philippines and China have been strained owing to the two countries’ dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Last month, Aquino skipped the China-Asean Exposition (Caexpo) despite the Philippines being the “country of honour” because of the conditions set by China over the territorial row, which the Philippines would not agree to.
It is uncertain whether the 10-member Asean would be able to complete the code of conduct at this summit, considered an important agreement that would settle regional issues in the resource-rich maritime area.
Aside from the Philippines, other Asean nations laying territorial claim in parts of the South China Sea are Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei this year’s Asean chair.
“We are hoping that the negotiations would be expeditious and that we are able to come up with the COC as soon as possible in order to manage the tensions in the South China Sea,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez added that the Philippines has not yet filed a complaint against China over its installation of concrete blocks in Scarbourough Shoal, discovered by the Philippine military last August.
“We thought that to address this issue, we will focus on the expeditious conclusion of the COC on the South China Sea, and in preparation for the memorial for the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral proceedings,” he said.
The “memorial” refers to the pleadings and arguments on the case filed by the Philippines against China, which should be submitted in March next year, Hernandez said.
President Aquino would be participating in the 16th Asean-China Summit, aside from the 23rd Asean Summit, 16th Asean-Japan Summit and the 16th Asean-Republic of Korea Summit, and the 1st Asean-US Summit.
Aquino would also be at the 16th Asean Plus Three Summit, the 8th East Asia Summit, the 11th Asean-India Summit and the 5th Asean-UN Summit.
Aside from the territorial row with China, central to the Asean Summit meeting would be the one Asean Community by 2015.