Monday, September 10, 2012

A+ A A- Snubbed? Aquino fails to meet Chinese leader


Citing “lack of time” for a dialog that would have mattered the most for the country, President Aquino failed to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) regional summit, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said amid deep tensions over a maritime row.

The two sides tried to arrange talks between both heads of state at a two-day Asia-Pacific leaders’ meeting in the Russian Far East port of Vladivostok, but ran out of time, Del Rosario said.

“It just came to a scheduling challenge, but as you can see the scheduling challenge turned out to be a bigger challenge than we anticipated,” he said.
Aquino’s aides had said beforehand that a meeting with Hu was his top priority for the summit. China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast amounts of oil and gas, is a rich fishing ground and is home to shipping lanes vital to global trade.

But the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also make claims to the sea, some of them overlapping, and Manila and Hanoi accuse Beijing of a campaign of intimidation to press its claims.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have been particularly pronounced, escalating dramatically in April when vessels from the two countries became engaged in a stand-off at a remote shoal in the sea.

The failure of the anticipated Aquino-Hu talks contrasted with discussions the Chinese leader had with Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang, which a Chinese government spokesman described as friendly. Hu also met with the Sultan of Brunei, which is less vocal in asserting its claims, and the representative of Taiwan.
Aquino was back in Manila late yesterday but his arrival statement made no mention of the aborted dialog with Hu.

Del Rosario, nevertheless, said earlier in the day that the format (for the dialog) had been finalized but a final date and time was still being worked out. “I think that a reasonable time will be allocated for the meeting,” Del Rosario added.

Aquino who was quoted on the eve of the supposed meeting with the Chinese leader as making an explicit wish to have a “frank exchange of thoughts” and a “heart-to-heart” with Hu so that they would be able to draw plans seen to ease tensions over disputed isles in the West Philippine Sea – including the stand-off at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and the alleged recent movements by China on Mischief Reef.
“I asked for a frank exchange of thoughts. Isn’t it sound if we get to alienate diplomatic niceties, so we understand where they’re coming from, they understand where we’re coming from and hopefully, it will lead to an understanding,” the President was quoted as saying to the members of the local media attending the assembly of leaders in the Asia Pacific region.

Aquino went on to say that a no-holds barred discussion would have promoted mutual openness “and perhaps we can get beyond what can be said publicly.”
On the morning of Sunday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario announced that a meeting between the two heads of state seemed unlikely due to conflicting schedules.

He added the meeting already looked “less likely” since the President’s schedule was literally full, noting that Aquino’s itinerary has been hourly marked until the last hour when the Philippine delegation is set to leave Vladivostok for a flight to Manila at 4 p.m. local time.

“We gave them…the dates and the time when we would be open and we asked them to look at that and it didn’t jibe or it doesn’t jibe with theirs,” he said.
Aquino, who arrived in Vladivostok Friday night, approved bilateral talks with the leaders of four nations in the Asia Pacific.

A disappointed del Rosario however could only express regret over a meeting that could have provided a good start for China and Philippines to be able to agree insofar as ending the conflict in the West Philippine Sea, is concerned.
“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 because it’s a good opportunity for the leaders to, as I said, to be able to exchange views freely. And if it doesn’t happen, I think this is obviously a missed opportunity,” the DFA chief lamented.

Aquino’s two-day participation at the APEC nonetheless enabled him to sit and talk with leaders from Malaysia and Vietnam, which like China, are also laying claim over the Spratlys group of islands along with the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei.
Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam agreed to adhere to the principles adopted by Asean on the code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea.
Malaysia was represented by its Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak while Vietnam had President Truong Tan Sang.


No comments:

Post a Comment