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China says it's up to PH to heal rift; sea dispute not in APEC agenda - Palace.

By Reuters, Genalyn D. Kabiling, and Mario B. Casayuran

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has admitted that the Philippines' case against China at an arbitration tribunal over rival claims in the South China Sea had strained relations between Beijing and Manila and that it was up to the Philippines to heal the rift and improve ties.

MalacaAaAaAeA~ang has ruled out raising the territorial issue during the As Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Summit to be held in Manila next week and putting China on the spot and would prefer to do it before the Hague-based tribunal.

"The President said the Philippines will be a good host, ensuring the comfort of all leaders and success of next week's AELM (APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting)," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

The arbitration case against China in The Hague "is a knot that has impeded the improvement and development of Sino-Philippine relations", a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website cited Wang as saying in Manila.

"We do not want this knot to become tighter and tighter, so that it even becomes a dead knot," Wang, who was in the Philippines for talks on Tuesday, told reporters in Manila. "As for how to loosen or open the knot, (we'll) have to look at the Philippines."

Beijing's claim to almost the entire South China Sea is shown on Chinese maps with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei also claim parts of the waterway.

For years, China has insisted that disputes with rival claimants be handled bilaterally.

In a legal setback for Beijing, the arbitration court in the Netherlands ruled late last month that it had jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines had filed against China over disputed areas in the South China Sea.

The Philippine government has welcomed the decision and its Foreign Affairs department said on Wednesday it would pursue the case "to its logical conclusion".

"China's nine-dash line claim is expansive, excessive and has no basis under international law," said foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose.

"If left unchallenged, we could lose about 80 percent of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone)."

China has boycotted the legal proceedings and rejects the court's authority in the case.

Jose said on Tuesday after a meeting in Manila between Wang and his Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario that the two countries agreed to resume foreign ministry consultations after a two-year break to explore areas where relations can move forward despite the territorial row.

Manila filed the case in 2013 to seek a ruling on its right to exploit the South China Sea waters in its 200-nautical mile EEZ as allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"The person who caused the problem should solve it," Wang said. "We hope that the Philippines can make a more sensible choice."

NOT IN THE AGENDA

"As you may recall, the South China Sea is not on the AELM Agenda. The Philippines has submitted its case on the SCS to international arbitration," read the DFA statement.

The government is also preparing for the hearing on the merits of the country's arbitration case later this month in The Hague, the DFA said.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President assured Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about the local culture "to make our guests feel the warmth of Filipino hospitality."

The President earlier said he plans to be a "perfect host" when fellow Asia Pacific leaders visit Manila for the annual economic gathering. Aquino is scheduled to have 11 bilateral meetings, including talks with Obama, at the sidelines of the summit.

"I'd like to be the perfect host to all of my counterparts including the observer, and in the two days, primarily, obviously I will try to engage all 21 in fruitful conversations," Aquino said.

REPAIR STRAINED RELATIONS

The Philippines must seize the opportunity presented by the APEC Summit to repair its diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PROC) strained the past years over their maritime territorial disputes, according to Sen. Ferdinand ''Bongbong'' R. Marcos Jr.

Marcos, one of the vice presidential candidates in the May 2016 national elections, noted that China recently ''softened'' its hard line stance and expressed openness to discuss the territorial dispute on the basis of International Law.

"I think we should take every opportunity to talk to the Chinese, be it formally, be it informally. We have to come up with a solution between the Chinese and the Philippines," Marcos said. "As long as the two sides are talking there is hope we can find a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute," he said.

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:0PACI
Date:Nov 12, 2015
Words:784
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