PNoy to meet Vietnamese, Indonesian leaders amid China row

Posted at 05/20/14 8:37 PM

MANILA - Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will meet separately with Philippine President Benigno Aquino during their visit to Manila this week for the World Economic Forum on East Asia, officials said Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Aquino will meet with Dung on Wednesday to "discuss matters of mutual concern, including cooperative activities in defense, tourism, and trade and investment."

Faced with tense disputes with China over territories in the South China Sea, Philippine Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said it is "reasonable to expect" that Dung and Aquino will "continue to compare notes on the two countries' experience in dealing with issues on the South China Sea."

Tension between China and Vietnam sparked last week over China's stationing of an oil rig near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, with Chinese vessels ramming and using water cannons on Vietnamese vessels.

Similar issues hound the Philippines and China, especially with Manila's recent discovery that Beijing has been fortifying a disputed area in the Johnson Reef, which the Philippines says is in violation of a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea by China and Southeast Asian nations, and the arrest by Philippine authorities of Chinese fishermen at Half Moon Shoal on May 6.

Aquino will meet with Yudhoyono on Friday "to discuss matters of mutual concern, including political, defense and border, maritime, economic and socio-cultural cooperation," Jose said.

The foreign affairs department announced Monday that Manila and Jakarta have "completed the negotiations for the delimitation of their overlapping exclusive economic zones in the Mindanao and Celebes seas with the finalization of the text of the agreement and the chart on the EEZ boundary."

The 200-nautical-mile EEZ is provided by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for coastal states.

Jose said the agreement with Indonesia is a good example in dealing with territorial disputes.

The 20-year negotiation with Jakarta shows that "we could have patience and that we could negotiate that long," he said, but added the boundary issue with Indonesia was "not really comparable" with the conflict with China.

"In the case with China, there's no overlapping EEZ. So there's nothing to demarcate. It's very clear in the provisions of (the law of the sea) where our EEZ starts and ends, and where China's EEZ starts and ends," Jose said, adding that China just has to drop its sovereignty claim over almost the entire South China Sea.

During the World Economic Forum on East Asia, Aquino and Dung will share the stage with Myanmar Vice President U Nyan Tun at the opening plenary on Thursday.

On the same day, Yudhoyono will be conferred with the Global Statesmanship Award. Indonesia will host next year's World Economic Forum on East Asia.

Organizers of this year's forum said more than 600 government and business leaders as well as leaders from civil society and academia, representing more than 30 countries, will participate in the May 21-23 event and tackle issues under the theme "Leveraging Growth for Equitable Progress."