APEC summit skirts sea rows

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Territorial disputes over islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will not be on the agenda when President Benigno Aquino 3rd attends the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing next month.

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Laura del Rosario, Foreign Affairs undersecretary for international economic relations, said the annual APEC summit will focus on economic issues.

“The APEC extends all the way to South America, so the issues should really be concerned with the whole Pacific region. We don’t go into the specifics of this issue [territorial disputes]that are just Southeast Asian issues,” del Rosario explained in a news briefing on Wednesday.

“The agenda is like shaping the future through Asia Pacific economic partners, so it’s really all economic,” she told reporters.

When asked if the territorial issue will be sidelined in deference to China, the host country, del Rosario replied, “The APEC has been here for the past 25 years. [It] never talked about anything political.”

She, however, noted that the only time the APEC was semi-political was when terrorism entered the picture in 2011.

At the time, del Rosario said, the group talked about “protecting trade from terrorist attacks,” not about addressing terrorism.

The Philippines, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and Taiwan have overlapping claims to areas in the West Philippine Sea.

In March this year, the Philippines submitted a memorial contesting China’s maritime claim before a United Nations tribunal.

Del Rosario said the Philippines and China will have to work together in the coming summit to make sure that unsettled economic issues will be tackled next year.

The Philippines will host the APEC summit in 2015.

“So, it’s a very nice partnership because, in effect, we will be holding hands to make sure that all the issues that affect us will be handled smoothly from one host economy to another,” she added.

Del Rosario said the Chinese government is “looking forward” to the Philippines’ participation in the summit in Beijing.

President Aquino will attend the APEC summit to be held on November 9 where he is expected to hold bilateral meetings with other leaders.

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