PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd flew to Beijing, China, on Sunday to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit there amid a bitter squabble over some islands in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
But while Aquino promised to bring home the bacon in terms of investments and diplomatic relations with other APEC members, Malacañang could not confirm if he will discuss the sea disputes with his Chinese counterpart in a bid to ease tensions.
“No information on that yet,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message.
Aquino left on Sunday morning for the first leg of his two-nation Asian trip. After the APEC summit, he will fly to Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar on November 11 for the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit to be held there.
Besides Asean member-nations, Japan, India, China and South Korea and delegates from the United Nations will also be there.
Asean countries that have claims over territories in the Spratlys in the South China Sea have been pushing for a Code of Conduct in the disputed region to foster joint use and benefits.
The Philippines filed early this year a memorial or protest before the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea questioning China’s nine-dash rule in asserting sovereignty over some disputed islands and shoals.
“Personal nating ipapaabot at ilalatag sa kanila ang mga bumubukas pang pagkakataon sa ating bansa, isa-isa natin silang hihikayatin na palaguin ang kanilang puhunan sa pagtatayo o pagpapaunlad ng kanilang negosyo dito sa atin [We will present to them the opportunities in the Philippines, and we will convince them to increase their investments by expanding their businesses here],” the President said in his departure speech. He made no mention of the sea row.
The APEC summit will tackle issues such as disaster preparedness and response; developing small, medium and micro enterprises; and advancement of good governance.
The President is set to meet with business leaders from participating APEC countries.
In Myanmar, the agenda includes strengthening trade relations, migrant workers welfare, fighting human trafficking, climate change and preparedness against the Ebola virus.
“Kukunin po natin ang pagkakataong makausap ang kanilang mga pinuno upang palakasin pa ang ugnayan ng ating mga bansa. Ilalatag din natin sa kanila ang ating saloobin ukol sa mga hamon at isyung kinahaharap natin ngayon, pati na ang mga kaukulang hakbang upang mapanatili ang kaayusan sa ating rehiyon [We will try to talk other Asean leaders into strengthening ties between them and the Philippines. We will put on the table our sentiments about issues and challenges we are acing, including steps that could preserve stability in the region],” the President said.
Through these dialogues, Aquino added, he hopes to bring in more investments that will further boost the country’s economic growth.
The government allotted P24 million for the President’s two trips.
Citing a report by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Coloma said the amount earmarked for the trip covers expenses for transportation, accommodation, food, equipment and other requirements of the President and his delegation.
Aquino will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Andrea Abad and Presidential Protocol chief Celia Anna Feria.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Social Secretary Susan Arnaiz will also join the President in China, while Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Coloma will be part of the delegation to Myanmar.