Aquino likely to tackle China row with Vietnam leader

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Aquino likely to tackle China row with Vietnam leader
Malacañang says Aquino will likely discuss tensions in the South China Sea with Vietnam's prime minister during a meeting in Manila this week

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III will likely discuss rising tensions in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) with Vietnam’s leader as the two meet on the sidelines of a major economic forum in Manila.

Aquino’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino will meet with Vietnam’s leader as the Philippines hosts the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia from May 21 to 23 in the capital.

“With the president of Vietnam, it will be probable [they will discuss the claims in the West Philippine Sea] given the current issue in their country,” Valte said over state-run radio DZRB on Saturday, May 17.

While Valte said “the president of Vietnam” will be attending the forum, WEF organizers earlier announced it is actually Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung who will attend the WEF. Other top government leaders from the region attending the event are Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Myanmar Vice President U Nyan Tun.

The meeting between Aquino and Vietnam’s prime minister comes after heightened tensions between their countries and China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China’s deployment of an oil rig in waters it claims as its own inflamed tensions and triggered deadly protests in Hanoi. Vietnam is engaged in a territorial dispute with China. Beijing and Hanoi have accused each other of ramming ships near the disputed Paracel Islands, site of a military engagement between the two countries in 1974.

Up to 21 people were killed in recent anti-China riots in Vietnam, and a huge foreign steel project has been set ablaze, Reuters reported.

This week, the Philippines also accused China of reclaiming land and building an airstrip on the disputed Johnson Reef, which the Philippines calls Mabini Reef and China refers to as Chigua. Manila released aerial photographs to validate its claim that China is building structures on the reef.

On Friday, Filipinos and the Vietnamese community in the Philippines held a protest in Manila over China’s recent actions

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to hold vast deposits of oil and gas. Others with competing claims to the sea are Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

‘What PH can offer’

Valte said Aquino will be busy in the coming week, with the Philippines set to use the WEF as a venue to show global leaders in government, business and civil society the economic gains under his administration. Aquino will deliver the keynote address in the forum.

“It will be a good opportunity for us to showcase what the country has to offer. While our country and our businessmen have participated in the World Economic Forum in different countries, this is our chance to show what the Philippines has to offer when they come over for the East Asia Summit,” Valte said.

In a press briefing Thursday, May 15, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr said the WEF will allow the Philippines to show the “Philippine miracle,” or the shift from being the so-called “Sick Man of Asia” to being a country with a 7.2% GDP in the fourth quarter of 2013. This is the fastest in Southeast Asia, and second only to China in Asia.

With more than 600 participants from over 30 countries expected, Valte said the government already made arrangements to ease their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1, which travel websites have tagged as the world’s worst airport.

In past weeks, travelers complained about the poor air-conditioning system at NAIA 1 and long lines in immigration counters.

Valte said government is already addressing the problem while rehabilitation is ongoing.

“[We] will continue to make sure that we can handle the volume, the increase in the traffic that we are expecting. But again, the NAIA Terminal 1 security, our preparations are also in place and are now ongoing. Today, the heightened actions and plans of the [police] started to make sure that the conference will be as quiet (sic) as possible,” Valte said.

The WEF’s theme is “Leveraging Growth for Equitable Progress,” and will tackle opportunities for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community to promote greater inclusion across East Asia.

“Over 3 billion people live in ASEAN, China and India, and in 2014, the whole East Asian region is expected to be the fastest-growing region in the world. Such progress is impressive only when industry and government leaders are fully committed to equitable distribution and inclusive growth,” said Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman in a previous statement. –


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