Despite spat, Philippines upbeat on relations with China | Inquirer News
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Despite spat, Philippines upbeat on relations with China

Despite China’s repeated intrusions into the West Philippine Sea and its refusal to allow a United Nations tribunal to rule on the Spratlys dispute, the government is confident that relations with Beijing will not just improve but go to the “next higher level” with President Aquino’s forthcoming state visit.

According to Raul Hernandez, the new spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, this optimism has been “bolstered by the commitment of both sides not to let the West Philippine Sea issue adversely affect their broader bilateral ties while keeping the communication lines open.”

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“This confidence also stems from the commitment of both sides to fully implement their joint Action Plan and to focus on advancing practical cooperation in all areas of our relations, including trade, investment, agriculture and food safety, tourism, education, defense, and addressing transnational crimes,” Hernandez said.

Aquino is scheduled to visit China in late August or early September, Hernandez said.

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“Both sides are working to make the President’s visit a success,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez, who formerly headed the DFA’s American affairs office, said the visit to China last week of Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had “further enhanced the bonds of friendship of the two countries.”

He said this will be “capped and solidified” by the President’s state visit.

Hernandez noted that the Philippines “has enjoyed good and friendly relations with China for 36 years, and we have nurtured this relationship, bringing dividends to our countries and peoples.”

“With the declared commitment of the Philippines and China to further maintain a healthy and stable development of bilateral ties, we are confident our relations with China will be brought to the next higher level,” Hernandez said.

Earlier this week, Del Rosario told a press briefing that the Philippines had failed to get an assurance from China that its intrusions into contested waters would stop.

However, notwithstanding the Spratlys dispute and other irritants to Philippine-China ties, Del Rosario expressed optimism that the “valuable partnership” between Manila and Beijing would become “more vital.”

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Del Rosario said the government would want the Spratlys issue to be “abstracted from our bilateral agenda so we treat it separately and find convergence so we can move from there.”

On Wednesday, Del Rosario said China’s refusal to allow the Hamburg-based International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (Itsos) to rule on the conflict indicates that China’s claim stands on shaky ground.

It means that China may not be able to prove its claim to the entire South China Sea area under internationally accepted law, specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos), Del Rosario said.

During his meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing last week, Del Rosario called for the Spratlys dispute to be brought before the Itsos, an independent judicial body set up by the Unclos in 1982 to handle such matters.

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TAGS: China, Diplomacy, International (foreign) Relations, Philippines, Spratlys, state visit
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