BEIJING, China — President Benigno S. Aquino III and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a brief discussion on Tuesday about their respective countries’ maritime disputes.
The meeting was viewed to be an encouraging sign towards the improvement of bilateral relations between the Philippines and China.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday afternoon, President Aquino said he is thankful for the warm welcome extended to him by President Xi and for engaging him in a short dialogue on the sidelines of a tree-planting event at the conclusion of the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting here.
“I think the warmth was there… When we had the informal pull-aside after the tree-planting ceremony, there was the sincerity. There was a factual laying out of the attendant issues, and also where we were, where we are, and where we hope to be,” President Aquino said.
“And, I guess, in most of the general points, I think we had a meeting of the minds. But, again, the details of how to actually operationalize this are something that will have to be tasked to perhaps other levels on both sides,” he added.
President Aquino and President Xi touched on the issue of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) during their pull-aside meeting and both agreed to come up with “constructive” ways to address the issue.
“He told me that we’ve had good relations from, I think, was it generations? Decades? For a very long time, we’ve had good relations. From all the previous leaders of our countries, we’ve had good relations. Hopefully, we can go back to having good relations, or something to that effect. This was after the tree-planting ceremony, so (it lasted) probably about 10 minutes or so, while we were walking back to the building,” the Chief Executive said.
The meeting between the two leaders was unexpected, but President Aquino welcomed this positive development.
The last time a high-level interaction took place between the leaders of China and the Philippines was when President Aquino met with then Chinese President Hu Jintao during the former’s state visit in Beijing in 2011.
“We are very glad that there was this opportunity to discuss and to have this dialogue with him, given the fact that the last time there was a high-level dialogue between a Philippine leader and a Chinese leader was when I had a state visit in 2011 and, of course, there were so many developments after that,” the President said.
“So we’re glad that there was this opportunity, and for our part, we reiterated that the primary aim and ambition of the Philippine government is to address the issue of how to improve our people’s lots in life. Anything that distracts from that mission is not something that we would want to pursue,” he added.
President Aquino also told Manila-based reporters in a separate interview that he did invite President Xi to visit the Philippines and asked for his and the other APEC leaders’ support when the country hosts next year’s summit.
“We can’t find any fault with the way they (China) hosted, especially the leaders’ summit. The precision, the perfection, I think, sets a standard for us to try and at least match next year when we host APEC,” he said.