Aquino calls for ‘mutual respect’ amid maritime row

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President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday said he hopes that dialogue and mutual respect could resolve the present differences between the Philippines and China.

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Acknowledging the presence of Filipino-Chinese community, the President said that the two countries have disagreements sometimes, but there are a lot of benefits for their continuing friendship throughout the years.

The Philippines and China are in the middle of a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In 2011, at the time of his state visit to China, Aquino said the Philippines was sending almost 830,000 tourists to China; while Chinese tourists visiting the Philippines only numbered around 190,000.

“The situation has seen some improvement over the years,” he said, citing that in 2013, over 426,000 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines.

“This still does not compare, however, to the almost one million Filipinos who traveled to China, visited its historical and cultural sights, and contributed to its economic growth in 2013,” Aquino said.

“The discrepancy is heightened especially when you take into consideration that our country represents only around 1/13th of China’s total population,” he added.

According to Aquino, this trend also continues in trade and investment.

In 2011, he said that during that same visit to China, he spoke to a gathering of businessmen where it was pointed out that, back then, Filipino foreign direct investments into China totaled roughly $2.8 billion, while Chinese investments into the Philippines were at roughly $600 million.

“Indeed: The kind of world we live in today demands greater solidarity from all nations, based on the truism that stronger relationships between nations redound to the benefit of their peoples, and also to the entire world,” Aquino said.

“In trade and investment, as with all other aspects of the relations between the Philippines and China, there is much that we can improve on—as long as our relationship is strengthened by mutual respect, the determination to maintain fairness and harmony, and a firm commitment to the rule of law. Let me emphasize that this does not only take place on the level of governments: everyone, including businessmen and captains of industry like yourselves, has a role to play,” he added.

Aquino was the keynote speaker at the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc.’s (FFCCCII’s ) joint celebration of the 117th Philippine Independence Day, the 150th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, 40th Anniversary of the Philippines-China Diplomatic Relations and the 14th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day on Monday.

“It is my hope that we all bear this in mind, as we commemorate the independence of the Philippines—an occasion that likewise underscores our interdependence with the world and, consequently, our desire, then as today, to be and to act as a responsible member of the community of nations,” Aquino said.

“Moving forward, may we all strive to do our part in enhancing cooperation and unity, as our forefathers did: whether to uplift the lives of Filipinos on our shores, or to work towards fostering stability that will redound to the benefit of all,” he added.

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