President Benigno Aquino 3rd will not assume a confrontational stand against China during this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in the Philippines.
In a live interview over state-run PTV 4 on Tuesday, Aquino doused speculations that he will take advantage of the APEC meetings in the country to advance the country’s stand on the row with Beijing over contested islands and shoals in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“I think it will be more prudent for us to await the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal rather than engage them in this dialogue. I think we have already stated our positions through various fora,” Aquino said, referring to the “memorial” that the Philippine government filed with the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (Itlos) against China’s nine-dash line rule in asserting sovereignty over the disputed territories.
The president said the APEC meetings will focus on economic issues, particularly trade, owing to China’s “major role.”
“We will stress on the economy—economic issues—and, specifically, China’s major role in the world economy and things that are happening in the domestic scene as it impacts the rest of the world’s economy,” he stressed.
The Philippines is hosting the year-long APEC meetings, which will culminate with the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting from November 18 to 19, 2015 in Manila.
Aquino explained that since “it’s an economic conference,” economic issues will be at the forefront.
“China is a major economic player, and with the things that are happening in China currently, I’m sure all the other member countries, including the observing countries we will be inviting, will be curious to know what the plans of China are with regards to issues like the stock market, amongst other things—if there is tension with the so-called property bubble, the valuation of the Yuan, and so on and so forth,” he stressed.
Since the filing of the arbitration case with the United Nations body, Aquino had sought the support of various countries, including political-economic blocs such as the European Union and members of the G-7.
In June, a team of “high-level” Philippine government officials flew to The Hague to defend the country’s position that Itlos should grant the petition for arbitration despite China’s refusal to participate in it.