By Janice M. Cave
MANILA, Aug 30 (PNA) — China did not withdraw its invitation to the Philippines to attend a free-trade agreement expo in Nanning, a Foreign Affairs official clarified Friday.
“The invitation was not withdrawn. The invitation was for the Philippines to send a high level delegation, a practice when one is the country of honor,” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said.
The Philippines and China are in a territorial dispute over oil-rich West Philippine Sea which China claims in entirety.
The Philippines is country of honor in this year’s CAExpo scheduled from from September 3 to 6.
It aims to create business opportunities for enterprises that will promote and deepen strategic partnerships between China and the ASEAN.
As a country of honor, it is common practice that the head of the government attends the CAExpo.
“In practice, when the country is the country of honor, the head of government would go to Nanning for the CAExpo and that was the president’s intention,” he said.
After Aquino confirmed that he would attend the event, China requested that Pres Aquino defer his visit to a “more conducive” time.
“The request of China for the President to visit China at a conducive time was related to the secretary of foreign affairs last Wednesday night in Beijing,” Hernandez said.
He said Manila recognizes the “differences” with China.
“We’ve urged China to consider the rules-based approach to the West Philippine Sea issue and this rules-based aproach is a combination of two-pronged approach which is advocating the code of conduct on South China Sea and pursuing the arbitral case wth UNCLOS in order to solve the maritime dispute,” he said.
“According to the Chinese ministry, this would be a hardsell for the constituents of China at this time,” he added. (PNA)