Sunday, November 18, 2018
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Aquino, Viet PM to take up China sea dispute

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President Benigno Aquino III and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. AFP FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, Philippines—Their countries being the victims of China’s aggression, President Aquino and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung are expected to sit down and tackle their territorial disputes with Beijing on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia (WEF-EA) which is being hosted for the first time by the Philippines this year.

The Philippines will be hosting the leaders of Vietnam and Indonesia this week in working and state visits that are touted to forge closer ties with the country’s main Southeast Asian neighbors, particularly in the areas of regional security and trade.

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Dung and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be visiting Manila to meet with President Aquino and take part in the WEF-EA, a four-day business event to be held from May 21 to 23, bringing more than 600 business leaders, policymakers and other participants together. Also attending is Burma’s Vice President U Nyan Tun.

Malacanang said that territorial disputes in the South China Sea—an issue of major concern for the Philippines and Vietnam—are likely to be discussed between the two leaders, particularly in light of recent Chinese incursions in both Philippine and Vietnamese exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

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Peace and rule of law

Dung, who arrives at 11 a.m. Wednesday, will kick off his three-day working visit with an expanded meeting with Aquino, tentatively set for 4:35 p.m.  The two are expected to take up where they left off at last week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Leaders’ Summit in Burma (Myanmar), wherein both leaders had raised the China problem.

“The President and the Prime Minister of Vietnam met and spoke with each other during the last Asean Summit in Myanmar,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma told reporters on Tuesday.

“It is reasonable to expect that they will continue to compare notes on the two countries’ experience in dealing with issues on the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, the DFA spokesman, on Tuesday said  that Aquino and Dung are expected to uphold earlier statements made at the Asean Summit in Myanmar, where ministers and heads of state emphasized peace and rule of law in resolving the dispute.

“They’ve already discussed this during last Asean Summit, and I think the leaders echo the statement issued by foreign ministers of the Asean, among other things, expressing their serious concern on developments or the situation in the South China Sea, and of course the call for a peaceful settlement of the disputes, and for the parties to adhere to the rule of law,” Jose told a press briefing on Tuesday.

Aquino and Dung are set to issue a joint statement at 5:40 p.m. Whether it would address the territorial dispute with China “will depend on the discussion that will take place,” Coloma said.

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TAGS: China, Philippines, sea dispute, South China Sea, State visits, territorial dispute, Vietnam, West Philippine Sea, World Economic Forum
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