MANILA, Philippines—Should he go to China this time?
President Aquino is sending an official delegation to attend the 10th China-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Expo in Nanning, China, set for Sept. 3 to 6.
But Malacañang is unsure whether President Aquino is coming along.
“We’ll wait for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to confirm (his attendance). We have not received any word if he’s pushing through with the trip,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda at a briefing in the Palace.
“When it comes to the foreign trips of the President it will be the DFA that will be making the announcement,” Lacierda said.
Aquino sent Roxas, accompanied by Lacierda, as his special envoy to the China-Asean Expo (Caexpo) last year.
Roxas was then tasked with conveying to then Chinese President Hu Jintao through Xi Jinping, the vice president at the time, the Philippines’ desire to improve relations with China and help find a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute between the two countries.
PH is host
This year, the Philippines is the assigned “host” of the Caexpo held annually in China to promote the building of the China-Asean free trade area.
“But as to whether he’s going, let’s wait for the announcement from DFA,” said Lacierda at the briefing.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez later sent a text message, which read:
“The President has signified his intentions to attend Caexpo in Nanning in September. However, it is not confirmed yet that he will attend.”
Apparently explaining the initial reluctance of Aquino to take part in the expo, Lacierda said that the agenda was primarily economic, with a slim chance of talking with China on the West Philippine Sea dispute.
Trade, economic agenda
Lacierda said the Palace’s decision to participate in the expo “is one proof of the multifaceted relationship with China.”
“We’re focusing now on trade and the economic agenda. So we have moved (on). We have focused on other levels of exchanges with China. For instance, just to let you know, there will be visitors from the mainland (to pay a call) on me. That’s why we can confidently say that our relationship with China is not limited to the situation in the West Philippine Sea.”
He said the issue of the disputed territories in the South China Sea was already being handled by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea’s arbitral tribunal.