RP, China sign agreement on provisions for imprisoned Filipinos

October 29, 2009 10:06 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Oct. 29 — Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi concluded on Thursday a two-day visit to Manila after signing a landmark consular agreement with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo on the settlement of disputes and assistance to Filipinos arrested or detained in China.

The signing of the consular agreement and that for a Joint Action Plan (JAP) was witnessed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at Malacanang.

Yang reaffirmed his country’s commitment to further enhance China’s relations with the Philippines and discussions of activities to mark the 35th anniversary of Philippines-China diplomatic ties in 2010.

The Philippines-China Consular Agreement "addresses long-standing concerns of the Philippine Embassy and Consulates-General in China with regard to the provisions of assistance to nationals (ATN) services," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

Such services include notification of arrests and detention of Filipino nationals, repatriation and settlement of disputes.

DFA did not give more details of the agreement, but it is widely known that cases of Filipinos detained or investigated in China for alleged drug-smuggling has risen in the past years. A number of the so-called "drug mules” are facing death sentences.

On the side, during a call on President Arroyo, Yang mentioned that in 1978 he and his wife stayed overnight at Malacanang as part of the entourage of then visiting Vice Premier Li Xiannian as his interpreters.

JAP "maps out the general strategic directions in bilateral cooperation in the next five years," DFA said. The areas of cooperation under JAP include: political, trade, investment, and finance, agriculture and fisheries, food safety, tourism, defense and security, law enforcement and judicial, consular, cultural, education, and media, science and technology, regional and multilateral cooperation, and sustainable development.

DFA explained that the Consular Agreement is the first of its kind that the Philippines has negotiated with another country.

The agreements were initiated by President Arroyo and President Hu Jintao during the latter’s State Visit in the Philippines in 2005.

Today’s signing marked the culmination of the sustained efforts of the Philippine and Chinese Foreign Ministries towards the details of the 2005 agreement of the two Heads of State, DFA said.

In their bilateral meetings at the Goldenberg Mansion by the Palace, Yang and Romulo reviewed the whole range of the bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction at the progress of their cooperation.

They both agreed to maintain the momentum and frequency of high-level visits, and enhance practical cooperation in various fields, including on trade, investments, infrastructure, cultural and education exchanges, defense, law enforcement, health, sports, anti-drug trafficking, and inter-foreign ministry cooperation. (PNA)

scs/GJB

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