President Benigno Aquino III has taken up the dispute over the West Philippine Sea with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
In a speech at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Mr. Aquino said he and Rudd discussed issues such as defense, disaster risk management, education, among others, during the former Prime Minister’s courtesy call in Malacañang on Friday.
“We also have many relations with them especially in the field of diplomacy, the issue of the West Philippine Sea, etc.,” President Aquino said.
“I took the opportunity as he’s already here… to improve our cooperation in addressing the similar problems that we are facing. (Rudd’s) also an expert. He speaks Chinese and he has many insights about China that are relevant in these times,” he added.
President Aquino made the remarks early in his speech to explain why he was half an hour late for the inauguration of the NKTI’s diagnostic center building in Quezon City.
Rudd’s courtesy call on the President was scheduled at 10 a.m. while the inauguration was supposed to have started at 11:30 a.m. But Mr. Aquino arrived around noontime.
“I would first apologize for being late by at least 30 minutes because of the visit of the Australian Foreign Minister. He’s the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd,” President Aquino said.
“Australia is one of our biggest partners in many fields such as trade, defense disaster risk management, education, etc.,” he added.
President Aquino also revealed Australia’s commitment to build 5,000 classrooms for the Philippines in 2012.
“One of the things they will do to help us—we have a shortage of classrooms—are the 5,000 classrooms that they intend to build and give to us next year,” President Aquino said.
Rudd visited the country on Thursday and Friday as one of the highlights of the 65th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties between the Philippines and Australia.
The visit is Rudd’s first official visit to the Philippines since he came to office on Sept. 14, 2010.
Aside from Australia, President Aquino has also discussed with Japan the implications of the territorial issues among countries around the West Philippine Sea.
The US, for its part, has indicated its oneness with the Philippines on the issues as an ally.
President Aquino is advocating a multilateral approach in finding a resolution to the disputes over the body of water that the Chinese call South China Sea.
Those claiming territories in the West Philippine Sea include the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.
The Philippines has earlier filed diplomatic protests due to alleged incursions by the Chinese into the Philippine territory.
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