Manila: A Philippine congressman has criticised China for isolating President Benigno Aquino, the only leader of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) who was not present at the China-ASEAN trade event, which opened in Nanning on September 3.
China’s alleged condition for Aquino’s attendance was “imprudent and meant to embarrass the Philippine president,” said Congressman Sherwin Gatchalian, adding that China gave Aquino an “impossible condition” to comply with, which prevented him from attending the event.
China allegedly sent a message hinting that the Philippine government should withdraw the case it filed before the United Nations against the presence of Chinese vessels at the Scarborough and St Thomas shoals near northern Luzon and southwestern Philippines, respectively.
China allegedly asked the Manila to withdraw its troops and a vessel that was grounded at St Thomas Shoal.
Earlier, Raul Hernandez, spokesman of the foreign affairs department, hinted at the conditions set by China, but refused to give more details.
They were “absolutely inimical to our national interest,” said Hernandez, adding, “The president stood firm in the defence of the country’s national interest [when he decided not to push through with his scheduled trip to China].”
All ASEAN leaders have been attending the trade event since it was established nine years ago, said Gatchalian.
A TV report showed that only Aquino was absent at the event.
The Philippines was designated country of honour at the trade event.
China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole of the South China Sea, based on their historical rights over the sea. At the same time, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim some parts of the Spratly Archipelago based on the provision of the United nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which grants countries 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone starting from their shores.
Four of the claimant countries, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam, are ASEAN members.