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Media coverage of China exec’s visit restricted

/ 12:41 AM May 21, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — Media has been restricted from covering the visit of the Chinese defense minister who is arriving today for a five-day visit amid fresh tensions between the Philippines and China over the disputed Spratlys.

China’s Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie will be in the Philippines from May 21 to 25, having previously visited Singapore and Indonesia as part of his Southeast Asian tour.

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Liang will call on President Benigno Aquino III and hold talks with his host, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the Chinese embassy said in a statement.

“The visit is expected to further advance China-Philippines friendly relations, specifically military exchanges and pragmatic cooperation,” it said

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The Department of National Defense (DND) announced Friday that Liang would call on Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo Oban Jr. at the DND office in Camp Aguinaldo on Monday.

But the officials will not face the media afterwards, according to the DND.

Defense Undersecretary and spokesperson Eduardo Batac said “many restrictions” would be imposed during the Chinese defense minister’s visit.

No press con

Only the arrival honors for the Chinese general will be open for media coverage.

“A private meeting (among the three) officials will be held at the Edsa People Power Lounge immediately after the arrival ceremonies,” the DND announced.

“There will be no press conference by either or both sides,” it stressed.

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The DND said Batac would only make a “short statement” immediately after the arrival ceremonies.

In lieu of the usual press conference the DND and the Chinese Embassy are expected to issue a statement, including photos and short video clips, to the media afterwards.

The Chinese defense minister’s visit came in the heels of news reports that suspected Chinese jet fighters buzzed two Philippine Air Force patrol planes last Thursday in the vicinity of the Kalayaan Islands Group in the Spratlys chain of islands in the South China Sea.

The reports, quoting unnamed military sources, said the Filipinos backed off and did not confront the Chinese jets.

The AFP remained tight-lipped on Friday about the incident and a spokesperson said they were still “validating” it.

On Thursday Oban said that if the report is verified they would take it up with their counterparts through diplomatic channels, admitting that the Philippine military has no capability to detect and intercept such intrusions.

In March, the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest after two Chinese navy gunboats allegedly harassed a Department of Energy oil exploration research vessel in the Reed Bank, which is within the Philippine-claimed Kalayaan Island Group.

The Spratlys chain of islands is wholly or partially claimed by six nations namely the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“Reports (are) under validation at this time that an unidentified aircraft flew over the country’s airspace,” AFP spokesperson Commodore Miguel Rodriguez said Friday. With a report from AFP

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TAGS: China, Defense, Foreign affairs, international relations, Media, Southeast Asia, Spratlys
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