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China ‘possibly’ on agenda of PNoy’s meeting with Obama

Will Aquino and Obama discuss the ongoing dispute between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal?

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III and U.S. President Barack Obama will discuss security and key developments in the Asia-Pacific region when they meet next week, and China will “possibly” be on the agenda.

Aquino and Obama during their last meeting in 2011. AFP photo

In a press briefing on Friday, 1 June, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Patricia Ann V. Paez refused to confirm that both leaders will talk about Scarborough Shoal but conceded that “it’s possible they will discuss that matter.”

“They will meet on 8 June. And, of course, when they discuss regional security issues or developments in the Asia-Pacific region, I cannot predict with 100% certainty how the conversation between the two leaders will go. But it’s possible that they could discuss that matter,” she said.

Paez did confirm that Aquino’s entourage will include Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Asked about Scarborough Shoal, the DFA official noted that the United States and the Philippines “share a convergence of interest specifically in terms of ensuring freedom of navigation, in terms of adapting a rules-based and multilateral approach in any dispute, in terms of ensuring unimpeded lawful commerce and keeping vital sea lanes open, and in terms of upholding the respect for international law in the settlement of disputes including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

Paez also stressed that Aquino’s visit “is meant to reinforce our strategic partnership and our alliance” with the U.S. Regarding the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, she said that “both the Philippines and the United States desire a constructive engagement with China.”

Fourth meeting with Obama

The President will celebrate his fourth official meeting with Obama since Aquino was elected in May 2010, and follows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s visit to the Philippines in November last year.

Last April, too, Washington hosted the first ever two-plus-two encounter between the secretaries of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Philippines and the U.S.

Paez said Mr Aquino’s visit hopes to reinforce the strategic partnership and alliance, and “reflects the heightened engagement” between both countries.

When they meet in the Oval Office, Aquino and Obama will discuss strategic, economic, and people-to-people ties as well as bilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Obama wants to be kept updated about Aquino’s vision for his country and his development agenda, which promotes inclusive growth, creating equal opportunities, and fostering good governance.

Foreign affairs, defense issues

“President Aquino’s visit sustains the intensified pace of engagement between the Philippines and the U.S. only within a span of two years. It also provides a good opportunity to celebrate and further reinforce the enduring and resilient of bilateral relations,” added the DFA official.

Following the summit, Clinton will host a luncheon in honor of Aquino and his delegation before the President meets with top leaders of the U.S. Senate at a reception hosted by Senate President Pro Tempore Daniel Inouye, who promotes Philippine interests in the U.S. Congress.

Aquino will also meet with American business leaders and investors and launch the U.S.-Philippine Society, which hopes to provide information about the country to U.S. policy-makers, convey to Manila feedback on perceptions of the country in the U.S. and partner with NGOs and other institutions to increase public exposure to Philippine issues with the support of 3.1 million Filipinos residing in the United States.

During his visit, the President will be interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

Before flying back to Manila, Aquino will also meet with the Filipino community in Los Angeles. – Rappler.com

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