by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Aug 18, 2011
Philippine President Benigno Aquino will visit China this month in an effort to deepen trade ties despite an increasingly bitter row over rival claims to the South China Sea, officials said Thursday.
Aquino will lead a delegation of top economic officials and hundreds of businessmen to China for the trip, from August 30 to September 3, during which he will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, they said.
The state visit is aimed at boosting trade, tourism, educational and cultural relations, with a particular focus on attracting Chinese investment to the Philippines, foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
"(The visit) is expected to raise the level of Philippines-China bilateral relations to its highest level," Hernandez said.
Bilateral trade is already surging, hitting $10.35 billion last year, a 54-percent rise from 2009, according to the Philippine government.
Hernandez and other senior government officials refused to comment directly on the tensions between the two nations that have escalated this year over conflicting claims to areas of the potentially resource-rich South China Sea.
The Philippines has accused China of becoming increasingly aggressive in enforcing its claims to the waters, and Aquino in June publicly called for help from longtime ally the United States in helping to contain China.
The Philippines has accused Chinese naval forces of shooting at Filipino fishermen, deploying patrol boats to intimidate an oil exploration vessel and placing markers on some of the disputed islets.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to all or parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly islands, which are believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits.
When asked about the territorial conflict on Thursday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda stressed that the two countries had close ties in many areas despite the dispute.
"We have several levels of friendship with China: economic, trade, cultural... this (visit) will be to foster those relations," he told reporters.
Aquino and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario have said in recent months they hoped to compartmentalise the dispute, so the two countries could continue to expand cooperation in other areas even amid the row.
Nevertheless, Aquino has maintained that the Philippines will not give in against its much more powerful Asian neighbour, and has even said it is seeking to upgrade its military to defend its territorial claims if necessary.
"As far as our sovereignty is concerned, no one can claim our islands. We will not just back down from a larger country," Aquino said last week.
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China lawyer sues oil giants over spill: report
Beijing (AFP) Aug 17, 2011
A Chinese lawyer is suing a state-owned energy giant and its US partner over a huge oil spill off China's northeast coast, amid public anger over the resulting pollution, state media said Wednesday. More than 2,100 barrels of oil and oil-based mud - a substance used as a lubricant in undersea drilling - have leaked from two platforms in Bohai Bay jointly owned by ConocoPhillips and China's ... read more
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