Snubbed: China invited other leaders but not PNoy
MANILA - Now, we can call it a snub, judging by the guests that China received at the opening of the China-ASEAN Expo.
Heads of other Southeast Asian countries were present at the opening ceremonies of the 10th China-ASEAN Expo but not President Aquino, even if it is the Philippines that is the Expo’s “country of honor” this year.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang received Myanmar President Thein Sein, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
They all took turns in delivering speeches at the opening ceremony.
President Aquino was planning to head the Philippine delegation to the Expo but China told him to make the visit “at a more conductive time.”
Malacañang declined to comment on reports that China had set conditions before Aquino could make the visit, including the withdrawal of the arbitration case to settle the country’s territorial row with China.
But deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte pointed out the invitation sent to other ASEAN leaders.
“Perhaps not to add fuel to the fire, I will not comment,” Valte said.
“If we’re quibbling about the invitation or the supposed non-invitation, I think it’s very apparent on the website. One, if I can just mention, the Prime Minister, I think, of Vietnam is attending. And if you take off from that particular kind of logic, that the heads of state of other countries who are attendees to that particular expo are attending, what more the President of the country that is being honored,” she added.
Aquino is being represented instead by Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo.
In planning to do the visit, President Aquino had wanted to show that the country’s relations with China could advance in other areas despite the territorial disputes but would not insist on doing the visit if the host would not accommodate him.
“This dispute is not the sum or the total of our relationship. In furtherance of that, of course, keeping that in mind that we have a multi-faceted relationship, it was a demonstration really of how reasonable we are even if there is a dispute and how we can manage to still work on the multi-faceted relationship despite the existence of the dispute,” Valte said.
“Ang sinabi lang niya, ‘Alam mo nandoon sa kultura natin ‘yun. If it’s made known that it is not conducive at this time, then we do not insist, or we do not push, lalo na imbitasyon ‘yan,’” Valte said of Aquino’s reaction to China’s statement.
BAJO DE MASINLOC
Malacañang declined to comment for now on reports that China has been putting up structures and fortifications around Bajo de Masinloc.
Asked if the Philippines will keep its policy not engage the Chinese within Philippine territory, Valte said, “We do have a standing policy not to respond to provocative action and I will let the defense establishment as well as our foreign affairs to deal with whatever they turn out.”