PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III received several Chinese officials in Malacanang on Tuesday, weeks before his expected visit to China.
Aquino met with Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao and Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, both of whom relayed a message from Chinese President Hu Jintao.
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“I understand there is a message from President Hu Jintao and they didn’t tell me exactly what the message was,” the President said in his interview in Batangas City when he visited the Malampaya deep water gas to power project.
Aquino said the closed-door meeting was sought by the Chinese officials.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said it lasted for almost an hour, refusing to give any more details.
The Chinese envoys requested that the meeting be kept under wraps.
“We confirm that the President received the warm and cordial message from the Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin but at the request of the Chinese embassy and the delegation, the details of the meeting be regarded as ‘internal communications between our two sides’,” said Lacierda.
Aside from Lacierda, also present in the meeting were Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario, DFA Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, and DFA assistant secretaries Cristina Ortega and Maria Theresa Lazaro.
President Aquino is set to visit China this month despite continuing tensions over the territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.
“So far, it is still a go,” he told reporters.
He, however, refused to give exact date on his trip deferring the matter to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Earlier reports said that Aquino’s trip to China will most likely be held on August 31 to September 2.
Meantime, President Aquino said he sees no problem on the opening of Malampaya on-shore gas plant facility in Batangas City, although Malampaya is located in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea as referred to by China.
“Kung hindi tayo magkasundo, punta na lang tayo sa International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea,” Aquino said. “Sabi nila, we will comply with international law, signatory sila sa sinasabi nating, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, so puwede nating i-weigh kung paano sila mag-be-behave, tinitingnan din po ng ibang bansa sa mundo, at kung i-a-aggravate nila tayo, na sa palagay ko naman hindi, mas maraming negative na mangyayari sa China.”
He also stressed that the Malampaya is closer to the Philippines than China.
Aquino earlier alleged that Chinese forces intruded into the Philippine claimed areas in the Spratly Islands at least nine times since February.
He said he will bring the issue on Spratlys before the UN’s International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea but China opposed it.
The President insisted, however, that bringing the case before an international arbiter would ensure that “all involved nations approach the dispute with calm and forbearance.”
The Spratlys is a chain of islands in the West Philippine Sea which are wholly or partly claimed by China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)