PH invites China after ‘testy exchanges’

Paterno Esmaquel II
DFA chief Albert del Rosario says he wouldn't deny that he broke 'diplomatic niceties' to defend the Philippines

TOP DIPLOMAT. The DFA invites Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit the Philippines, after supposedly 'testy exchanges' in an ASEAN meeting. Photo from AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday, July 4, said he will not deny reports that he broke “diplomatic niceties” to defend the Philippines, but quickly steered the topic to something “constructive.”

Del Rosario told reporters, “I will not deny what has been reported, but I feel there’s no need to add to it.”

For the country’s top diplomat, what’s important is this: He has invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the Philippines, despite what the Singapore foreign minister called “testy exchanges” between them recently.

Del Rosario said he wants a “constructive discussion on all issues.”

“I indicated to him that perhaps it’s timely for him to do this, because I have been to Beijing 3 times since I became foreign minister and all throughout that time, we have had no visits from a Chinese foreign minister,” he explained.

Wang will “consider” it, Del Rosario said.

‘Serious concern’

The DFA chief said this after Reuters on Wednesday, July 3, reported a “departure from the usual diplomatic niceties” on Del Rosario’s part. This was during a closed-door meeting in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum in Brunei.

Both countries have been squabbling over Chinese presence in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

“Del Rosario was not scheduled to speak, but after hearing Wang’s speech at Sunday’s closed-door meeting in the kingdom of Brunei, he raised his hand and proceeded to rebut China’s allegations one by one, according to Philippine diplomats,” Reuters said.

This supposedly happened last Sunday, June 30, the day when Del Rosario “expressed serious concern over the increasing militarization of the South China Sea.”

ASEAN is bent on settling the disputes over the South China Sea peacefully. To achieve this, 3 meetings will happen in the next few months, Del Rosario said.

China called for a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers in August, Del Rosario said. The meeting is set in China.

Before this, to prepare for the meeting in China, another meeting set by Thailand will take place.

Then, in September, China has agreed to engage in official consultations on implementing the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“Our hope is that we can have a discussion on a way forward,” Del Rosario said.

The Palace on Thursday welcomed China’s openness to discuss it. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, “This is a step in the right direction.” – Rappler.com



Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.