MANILA, Philippines – Italy has affirmed its support for the Philippines’ bid for a rules-based resolution to the dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Malacañang said on Thursday, December 3.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella conveyed this to President Benigno Aquino III during a bilateral meeting at the Quirinal Palace in Rome on Wednesday, December 2 (Thursday, December 3, Manila time), Malacañang said in a statement.
Mattarella also expressed his country’s support for upholding the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea and acknowledged the path that the Philippines has taken in its bid for a peaceful resolution of the dispute, it added.
Aquino, who is on an official visit to Italy, and Mattarella, met on the heels of the last day of hearings of a UN-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, on the merits of the Philippines’ case against China over the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Philippines: China to build ‘Berlin Wall of the Sea’)
Both leaders also expressed solidarity in the campaign against global terrorism, sharing the view on the need to intensify efforts to halt Islamic radicalization, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said. They made the statement weeks after terror attacks in the French capital and other parts of the world.
Aquino thanked Italy for its support for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the debt-for-development program.
During their meeting, Mattarella raised the European Union’s (EU) concern over the influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, as many EU members still grapple to address the issue at this time.
Aquino, for his part, cited the Philippines’ record in assisting refugees.
He also highlighted the need to improve the relations between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Matarella also congratulated the Philippines for its successful hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit last month, its high economic growth rate, and the administration’s anti-corruption drive.
He recognized the significant contribution of more than 171,000 Filipinos working in Italy.
Aquino is scheduled to meet with the Filipino community in Rome during his visit to Italy and Vatican City.
The Philippine leader is on a 3-state European visit, starting in Paris, where he batted for a “fair” climate change deal at Leaders’ Event of COP21 or the 21st Conference of Parties of the UN Convention Framework on Climate Change on November 30.
From Rome, he will proceed to Vatican City to meet with Pope Francis. – Rappler.com