SINGAPORE (Mabuhay) – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commended President Benigno S. Aquino III on his recent meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Tuesday.
Lacierda said President Aquino’s pull-aside meeting with the Chinese leader, after a tree-planting event at the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing last week, was among the topics raised by Prime Minister Lee with the visiting Philippine head of state.
President Aquino and Prime Minister Lee met during a courtesy call made by the former at the Istana main building shortly after arriving here for a two-day working visit.
The Palace spokesman said President Aquino showed Prime Minister Lee a note bearing President Xi’s statement written in Chinese language, which the Singaporean leader read and took positively.
“The first remark (of Prime Minister Lee) after reading the statement was: ‘This is quite a generous discussion,’” Lacierda told Manila-based reporters during a press briefing.
He added that the Singaporean leader hoped for a “just and amicable outcome” in the relations between China and the Philippines following that discussion between the two leaders.
President Aquino and President Xi touched on the issue of West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) during their pull-aside meeting and both agreed to come up with “constructive” ways in dealing with their maritime disputes.
Prime Minister Lee, who was also present in the APEC summits, welcomed this development, echoing President Aquino’s belief that the Philippines’ overall relationship with China should not revolve entirely around their territorial conflict.
“Our relationship with China is multifaceted. It’s not focused on the dispute in the South China Sea. We have other relations with China. For instance, trade, people-to-people, tourism… So, in that respect, we’re in agreement that (our) relationship with China is not focused on the dispute,” Lacierda said.
President Aquino discussed with Prime Minister Lee about the Philippines’ arbitration case filed before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, Lacierda said, adding that the Singaporean leader was supportive of the general idea behind such move.
“In his (Prime Minister Lee’s) view, China does not want to go to war. China would like to have peace with its southern neighbors… Kaya nga ang sagot ni Pangulong Aquino is ‘wala rin naman tayong balak… My interest here is how to improve the lot of the Filipinos,’” Lacierda said.
“So kung wala tayong agam-agam sa South China Sea, we can concentrate on making our country more prosperous, more economically viable with respect to trade relations with China and other members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), of APEC, and other regional trade groups,” he added.
Lacierda, moreover, mentioned that Prime Minister Lee welcomed the fact that talks with regards to the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is now moving and that China is currently reviewing it.
“The ASEAN has already crafted a Code of Conduct… China is now presently reviewing the Code of Conduct, so there is now a discussion. As to how it moves forward, that remains to be seen. But, certainly, we would rather be talking and discussing matters, rather than doing anything to escalate tensions. And Singapore is one with us in making sure that relations with each other is one that maintains harmonious relations with China, at the same time, maintaining what is rightfully ours,” Lacierda said. (MNS)