Oct 19, 2012

Philippines - Noy on China: I will do what is right and leave the rest to God

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MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino vows to continue to do “what is right” as far as the country’s relations with China is concerned and leave the rest to God.

Aquino said it is tough to make decisions concerning the country’s territorial dispute with China.

He must decide whether to “adopt the kowtowing attitude or stand up for that which you think is right.”

In an interview with Rappler’s Maria Ressa at Malacañang on Wednesday, Aquino said: “When you stand up for that which is right, how hard should it be? Or how diplomatic should it be?

“Primarily, I’ll do everything that I can then leave everything else to God.

“Hopefully He will guide us, He will strengthen us, He will point the directions we are supposed to go to.”

Aquino said he would also decide the actions to take based on what a “reasonable” individual would do given the particular circumstances.

At the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Aquino cited the “very gradual warming up” of relations with China that had begun.

He said this would likely continue as “ultra nationalist” sentiment in Beijing was likely to ease after a leadership change next month.

“We hope these domestic pressures on China will be lessened after the transition, so we will have more room to negotiate and discuss in more reasonable terms and less ultra-nationalist terms,” he said.

“We are taking a wait-and-see attitude,” he added.

The domestic pressures in China ahead of its once-in-a-decade transition of power had affected efforts to improve diplomatic relations to a level seen before the dispute flared, Aquino said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to hand over power as head of the Communist Party to Vice President Xi Jinping during a congress starting on Nov. 8.

But Hu will remain the country’s president until next March.

Aquino said no back-channel talks are going on with China on the territorial issues – at least for now. He also denied taking a bilateral approach to addressing the problem.

Earlier, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV was revealed to have been involved in back-channel talks with Beijing, supposedly with the Palace’s blessings.

“That is not correct,” Aquino said when asked if Trillanes’ China mission was an indication of the President’s openness to bilateral talks, which Beijing prefers.

“Bilateral (talks) can be a component but multilateral is the approach. The problem is multilateral. In ASEAN alone, there are four countries of the 10 who are claimants to the Spratlys group,” he said.

“So how can two talk or how can one of four talk with China and bind the other three?”

Aquino said multilateral talks can only be effective if it “binds everybody.”

“Otherwise, we settle a portion of the problem and we retain the rest of the problem,” he told the group of foreign and local journalists.

Aquino said there seemed to be a “little bettering” of the relations between Manila and Beijing, despite the two sides holding their ground firmly.

He cited Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II’s meeting with leader-in-waiting Xi at the China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning City recently to discuss the territorial dispute.

“The little warming up is that they have initiated dialogue with us. Initially at Vladivostok (in Russia at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit) but that didn’t push through, but subsequently at the China-ASEAN Expo,” he said.

“The messages were practically the same, only there are some differences. That’s why I said there seems to be a very gradual warming up,” he said.

“I want to be very precise. We are hopeful this gradual warming up will be really warmed up by the time of the transition.”

Aquino said the mood was different at the height of the standoff at Panatag.

“If you were to return to what it was before the conflict in Bajo de Masinloc happened, then that is a very significant improvement,” he said.

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