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China plays gracious host to PH delegation

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte: No awkwardness. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte: No awkwardness. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino found himself in no “awkward” situation while attending the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit hosted by China, despite Manila’s increasingly tense territorial dispute with Beijing.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, who returned to Manila ahead of the President, said Monday that Chinese officials played “gracious” hosts to the Philippine delegation and the rest of the participants.

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“I did not sense any awkwardness when the President attended the CEO summit yesterday. He also did not mention anything,” said Valte, who spent six days in Beijing representing the Philippines in the concluding senior officials’ meeting and the Apec ministers meeting.

Aquino played down the tensions with China when asked about the territorial dispute during a forum with Asia-Pacific businessmen on Sunday.

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The President said the dispute was not the “be-all and end-all” of Philippine-China relations, echoing a statement made by former Chinese President Hu Jintao when he went on a state visit to Beijing three years ago.

If the President held his punches it was because “Apec is essentially about economic cooperation,” Valte said.

The Philippine proposal was contained in a “triple-action plan,” which called on rivals to refrain from activities that would raise tensions in the region.

Manila also wants disputes to be settled through international arbitration, and a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Valte said there was no scheduled bilateral meeting between Aquino and Chinese President Xi Jinping, noting that the hosts were busy accommodating delegates from 20 other Asia-Pacific countries.

“They will have a chance … to see each other during the retreat as well as the welcome dinner,” she said.

“We have been engaging … we have been sending observer teams, not just to the leaders’ summit this week in Beijing, but also to … other Apec-related events. We have not encountered problems with the current host,” Valte said.

“The current host has been very, very gracious. They made sure their [guests] were comfortable, secure and were able to focus on the substantives of the meeting that have been conducted,” she said.

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TAGS: Abigail Valte, Apec Summit, Benigno Aquino III, China, Philippines
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