May 052013
The Department of Foreign Affairs on Sunday said the decision of China’s new foreign minister not to visit the Philippines in his Southeast Asia tour is a prerogative.

In a text message, DFA chief Albert del Rosario said his office has “not given a second thought” to newly-appointed Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s choice of countries in the region to visit.

“The plan for these visits is his prerogative… We look forward to meeting at the appropriate time with the new foreign minister and working closely with him,” Del Rosario said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte meanwhile said the Palace does not want to speculate why the Philippines was not included in the Chinese foreign minister’s itinerary.

“It will not be healthy to engage in speculation. We recognize the prerogative of the Chinese foreign minister to set his own agenda for his trips outside his country,” Valte said in a separate interview over state-run dzRB radio.

Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced that Wang will be visiting Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam from April 30 to May 5 “at the invitation” of the foreign ministers of these Southeast Asian countries.

Chinese news service China Briefing said the four Southeast Asian countries are Wang’s first overseas destinations since his appointment in March. Also, it said the tour marks the first time in over 15 years that a Chinese envoy gave priority to Asian destinations.

The news agency likewise said the four countries “were likely picked for being neutral and influential” in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

South China sea dispute

The Chinese foreign minister’s decision to visit Southeast Asia came amid China’s territorial dispute with some Southeast Asian countries over parts of the South China Sea.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan and China, have overlapping territorial claims on parts of the South China Sea.

China claims ownership of the whole South China Sea.

The Philippines refer to maritime areas on the western said of the country as the “West Philippine Sea.” These areas include the Kalayaan Island Group, which is part of the disputed Spratly Island, and the Panatag Shoal, which was the site of standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels last year.

Last January, Manila decided to bring its territorial dispute with China to a United Nations tribunal.

Del Rosario, for his part, said the Philippines “continues to work towards further enhancing its bilateral relations with China, with focus on deepening our economic cooperation.”

Moreover, the DFA chief said the Philippine government will continue “seeking a peaceful rules-based approach” to its territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.” — with Andreo Calonzo /LBG, GMA News

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