Sunday, June 3, 2012

Shoal row tops agenda of Philippine president's UK, US trips

..Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The country's standoff with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal would be one of the main points in the bilateral talks between Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and world leaders British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama when he visits London on June 4, and the United States from June 6 to 8. "We'd talk about the conditions in the West Philippine Sea," Aquino said when asked about his London visit. On his visit to the United States next week, Aquino will be welcomed at the Oval Office by US President Obama, according to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. "[The two leaders] will discuss a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues that reflect the multifaceted nature of the two countries' strategic partnership," Del Rosario said in a statement. "I assume that...Prime Minister David Cameron will also inquire as to the status (of the standoff). (The West Philippine Sea) is a body of water where quite a substantial amount of world trade has to pass through," the president said in an interview. "So it's a matter of concern for everybody if things change that will restrict the free flow of goods and services (in this) particular body of water," he added. President Aquino recently appointed career diplomat Sonia Brady to a posting in Beijing. Old hand "She's been there. She knows who to talk to, she knows the system, she knows our concerns," Aquino said of his expectations from the country's new ambassador to China who has since been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. 4th meeting It will be the fourth meeting between the two presidents in a span of two years. The two leaders were also at the September 2010 Association of Southeast Asian Nations-United States (Asean-US) Leaders Meeting in New York, the September 2011 launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) also in New York, and the Nov 18, 2011, Asean-US Leaders' Meeting in Bali. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will host a luncheon in honor of the President and his delegation at the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room of the State Department in Washington, DC, Del Rosario said. The president will also meet with leaders of the US Senate at a reception organised by Senate President Pro Tempore Daniel K. Inouye at the US.Capitol, and with members of the Filipino-American community in Los Angeles on his way back to Manila. The Inquirer has learned that "American Idol" runner-up Jessica Sanchez will sing at the Fil-Am reception for the president. 'Heightened engagement' The DFA statement said Aquino's US visit reflected the "heightened engagement" between the Philippines and the US, as evidenced by the "upward trajectory of high-level exchanges," including the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, the visits of US Congressional delegations to the Philippines, and the recent 2+2 Meetings in Washington, DC. Del Rosario added that President Aquino will be the guest of honor at the launch of the US-Philippines Society, a private sector initiative designed to encourage economic ties, promote trade and investment, support common strategic and political goals, and strengthen cultural, technological, educational, and people-to-people linkages between the two countries. The Society is cochaired by Ambassador John D. Negroponte for the US side and Manuel V. Pangilinan for the Philippines, and Washington Z. Sycip and Maurice "Hank" Greenberg as honourary chairs. Eminent business leaders from both countries comprise the Society's Board. COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK