The Philippine and Chinese presidents will likely discuss a territorial row on the sidelines of a regional trade summit in Russia next month, a Philippine official said yesterday.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III will reaffirm in the talks his country’s claims to parts of the South China Sea, while seeking to ease tensions with China and boost trade, Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario said.
“He [Aquino] will explain to them what we are doing about it, what we are doing to de-escalate it. It’s useless to discuss the problem in a high-pitched voice,” Del Rosario told reporters, referring to the maritime row.
Aquino and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) are due to attend the APEC leaders’ summit in Russia’s far eastern port city of Vladivostok on Sept. 8 and 9.
Del Rosario said the meeting between Hu and Aquino on the sidelines of the summit had not yet been confirmed, with both delegations still to finalize their schedules.
However, she said the Chinese side had proposed the bilateral meeting, and Aquino would accept.
“It will be the number one on his priority list,” she said.
Del Rosario emphasized the Philippines wanted to focus on boosting economic partnerships with China during the planned meeting, not the South China Sea dispute that has caused deep diplomatic fissures for more than a year.
“We just hope ... that whatever political issues we have, we can just separate it from economic issues and trade issues,” she said.
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 for the region and is home to shipping lanes that are vital to global trade.
However, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim parts of the sea.
The Philippines and Vietnam have accused China recently of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the area.
Tensions between the Philippines and China escalated dramatically in April when vessels from both countries became engaged in a stand-off at a remote shoal in the sea. The Philippines’ foreign minister then accused Chinese diplomats last month of “duplicity” and “intimidation.”