SHARED DEVELOPMENT OF DISPUTED AREAS
Did President Aquino agree to Chinese suggestions for a joint development of areas in the South China Sea in which the Philipopines is disputing with China?
Chinese leader-in-waiting Vice President Xi Jinping believes that Aquino did and he is now expressing hopes that the Philippine government will stick to its part of the bargain.
In a dialog with Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Xi said he hopes ties hurt by a territorial row can recover primarily if the Philippine government abides by a “consensus” reached between Aquino and Chinese President Hu Jintao on promoting bilateral cooperation and properly handling the issues concerning the South China Sea.
Hu during Aquino’s visit last August proposed a “shared development of disputed areas of the South China Sea pending a negotiated solution to the nations’ differences.”
“Before the disputes are resolved, the countries concerned may put aside the disputes and actively explore ways of common development in the related sea areas,” state television quoted Hu as telling Aquino.
It was not then known how Aquino responded to Hu’s insistence on “common development.”
Aquino, however, had not mentioned such an agreement and had insisted that a third party resolution be undertaken to settle the territorial disputes with China.
Xi, nevertheless, told Roxas that tensions between the two countries had “eased” after a blow-up over a disputed island in the South China Sea, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
Trouble flared in April when vessels from the two countries became engaged in a stand-off over the rocky outcrop known as
Scarborough Shoal. Both sides later agreed to withdraw their boats, defusing some of the tension.
Xi said Aquino, during his visit to China last year, reached an important consensus with Hu and that “the consensus still works as an important guideline for the development of bilateral ties.”
He called on the two nations to honestly implement the consensus in an aim to promote the healthy and stable development of the bilateral relations.
“I hope this (situation) will not appear again and again, allowing bilateral relations to return to the track of normal development,” Xinhua quoted Xi as telling Roxas at the sidelines of the ninth China-Asean Expo (Caexpo) in Nanning, capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
“China-Philippine relations have encountered some difficulties. However, through effective communication between the two sides, the situation has already eased,” Xi said.
A Palace statement quoted Roxas as saying the two had had “a frank and candid exchange of views.” It said both sides “expressed their desire to resolve outstanding issues while moving forward with their bilateral relations.”
“(The) discussions were constructive and the talks were conducted in a cordial atmosphere,” Roxas added.
The talks in the city of Nanning came after Aquino failed to secure a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Russia earlier this month.
Xi is widely expected to succeed Hu as leader of China’s ruling Communist Party at an upcoming party meeting, then take over as president in March next year.
China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast amounts of oil and gas and is a rich fishing ground and home to shipping lanes vital to global trade.
But the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the sea, some of them overlapping.
China is also locked in a territorial dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea, which Japan administers and calls Senkaku but China claims and knows as Diaoyu.
“China-Philippines relations have encountered some difficulties. However, through effective communications between the two sides, the tensions have been eased,” Xi told Roxas.
“I hope the situation would not reverse backwards and bilateral relations could come back to the track of normal development,” he added.
Xi said the China-Philippines bilateral ties have maintained the momentum of development since the two forged diplomatic relations 37 years ago and bilateral cooperation in many fields had produced positive outcomes and delivered substantial benefits to the people of the two countries.
“President Aquino showcases how he values China-Philippines relations by sending you as a special envoy to attend the Caexpo and convey the message of developing bilateral ties,” Xi told Roxas.
Speaking highly of the role played by the Caexpo in fostering ties between China and the Asean, Roxas said the Philippines sincerely wants to establish a friendly, close and normal relationship with China.
He expressed his hope that the Philippines could forge mutual trust with China, overcome the current difficulties and maintain cooperative relations.
In an interview over government-run radio, Aquino’s deputy spokesman Abigail Valte read Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda’s press release concerning the meeting between Roxas and the Chinese vice presicent.
Lacierda’s statement said, “the Chinese Vice President expressed appreciation to President Aquino in sending Roxas.
“‘This showed the importance that President Aquino attaches to Philippines-China relations,’ Vice President Xi said.”
The DILG secretary, for his part, expressed confidence that he has faithfully delivered President Aquino’s message to the Chinese government.
“We had a frank and candid exchange of views and I am satisfied that I was able to faithfully convey President Aquino’s message,” Roxas enthused.
“Vice President Xi promised to bring President Aquino’s message to the attention of Chinese President Hu Jintao,” Roxas said.
Lacierda said the meeting focused on the current outstanding issues between the two countries as well as on the other dimensions of their bilateral relationship.
Joining Roxas in the meeting were Lacierda, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio and Philippine Embassy in Beijing Charge d’Affaires Alex Chua.