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Philippines' Aquino returns home from Russia without meeting China's Hu

Publication Date : 09-09-2012

 

Russia President Vladimir Putin has bid “dasvidanya” to his guests in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ Meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III failing to hold a much anticipated bilateral meeting with China President Hu Jintao in this former naval island fortress.

“We saw each other earlier and we didn’t have the chance to converse,” Aquino said  of Hu Saturday night.

“The retreat [last Saturday] has already started before we saw each other. I didn’t see him actually at the cocktails before we had dinner. I think he was also busy with his own bilateral meetings,” said the President.

Aquino met with leaders of Chile and Singapore Saturday and Malaysia and Vietnam Sunday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario tried to secure a meeting with Hu before the closing of Apec at 1pm (Vladivostok time) but the Chinese leader’s itinerary, which included a meeting Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper Sunday morning was also loaded.

In a briefing held an hour before Putin’s closing remarks, del Rosario said the President was unable to sit down with Hu in the last day of the Apec meeting.

“There was agreement on the format [on the bilateral talks]. And so it just came to a scheduling challenge but as you can see, the scheduling challenge turned out to be a bigger challenge and we anticipated. Our schedule just didn’t jibe with each other,” said del Rosario.

The President’s chartered flight left for Manila at 4pm (Vladivostok time).  Del Rosario said the President was disappointed.

“I think that a lot could have been achieved in terms of a meeting between the leaders for them to be able to share the various points of view and I think that this probably is not only a downside for the Philippines but also for China. I think this is obviously a missed opportunity,” said del Rosario.

In a briefing Saturday night, the  President said that he planned to conduct a “frank exchange of thoughts” with Hu in order to “divorce the talks from diplomatic niceties”.

The President’s last meeting with Hu was during his state visit to China in August last year and since then, their exchanges have been coursed through their respective ambassadors.

“I can’t say it’s a warmed up relationship but at least it’s less cold than what it was,”

At this point, the President said he would rather agree to disagree on things that divide the two countries specifically the West Philippine Sea dispute while moving forward on more negotiable matters.

He also said that bringing up the territorial dispute to the United Nations could be risky than it looked because “I was told by all the lawyers I talked that once we enter into litigation, we can win but we can also lose.”

The President said some Apec leaders offered practical advice that no political leader in his right mind would abandon something that their predecessors have claimed as theirs.

“Nobody can give up their sovereignty just like that. The political cost will not be bearable by whoever proposes it,” said the President. “If I gave up even one centimeter of our national territory, I’m sure there will be many who will impeach me.”

 

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