PHL, China hold high level talks in Manila for first time in six years

November 11, 2015 7:34 am 

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, Nov. 10 (PNA) — For the first time in six years, the Philippines and China held high-level talks in Manila in a move that could lead to the normalization of ties between the two Asian neighbors embroiled in a long-standing territorial feud over the contested South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met for one hour at the Department of Foreign Affairs and focused on discussions on Manila’s preparations for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and Philippines-China bilateral relations.

On APEC, Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Wang conveyed to Del Rosario that the main purpose of his visit is to confer with Philippine government officials on Manila’s preparations for summit to ensure that the attendance of President Xi Jinping will be “smooth, safe, and successful.”

This was Wang’s first visit to Manila as Foreign Minister under the leadership of Xi Jinping. Since he assumed the post in 2013, Wang has visited other Southeast Asian nations, but skipped the Philippines due to the territorial rift.

Manila filed a case against China before a United Nations-linked tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands in January 2013 to invalidate China’s massive claim that intrudes into Philippine territory – a move that has angered Beijing.

Other claimants to the resource-rich waters are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Despite their differences, Jose said the meeting between Del Rosario and Wang was “warm,” “positive” and “cordial.”

Wang even expressed support for the Philippine hosting of the APEC this year, Jose said.

“They said they will support our hosting,” he added.

In the meeting, Wang, according to Jose, asked the Philippine side not to include the territorial disputes in the discussions during the APEC meetings – a request that was granted by the Philippine government.

“They expressed hope that contentious issues will not be raised and we said we will endeavor on our side,” Jose said. “We are not raising the South China Sea issue first and foremost because we have a pending case before an arbitral tribunal and we prefer not to discuss the case publicly. Secondly, APEC is not the proper forum to discuss the issue.”

Del Rosario took note of the trip of President Benigno S. Aquino III to Beijing last year when China hosted the APEC summit and recalled the warm reception and hospitality the President received from the Chinese government.

“The Secretary said we are committed to being a good host to all guests and that we will endeavor to do everything possible to ensure that President Xi Jinping’s visit will be safe comfortable and productive,” Jose said.

On the bilateral issue, Jose said both sides agreed to resume the foreign ministry consultations “in order to explore ways on how we can move the bilateral relations forward.”

“We’ll work it out with China on how soon we can hold it,” Jose said. “It is our turn to host so we will take the initiative. Subject to consultation, we will find for common convenient time for both sides.” (PNA)

RMA/MDC/EDS

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