Cayetano flies to Beijing to ‘strengthen’ links with China

Upon invitation of his Chinese counterpart Foreign Minsiter Wang Yi, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday left for Beijing to further “strengthen” relations between the two countries.

In a press conference, Cayetano told reporters that during his visit, the issue of the country’s maritime dispute with Beijing on the South China Sea would be put “on one side” as they discuss aspects of cooperation that could be developed.

“We agreed with them, we will put our dispute in one side and grow the relationship in all other aspects so whether we talk about our agricultural exports, whether we talk about the infrastructure, talk about counterterrorism, Marawi, we usually also discuss systems because Chinese and Filipinos agreed that every process must be smooth and that there should be no red tape,” he said.

Among others, he said Manila and Beijing would also talk about security issues the region is facing, such as the nuclear program of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

On matters concerning the relations of the two states, he said that talks on “irritants” would also surface.

“Although we have a bilateral consultative mechanism (where) we are supposed to meet at least twice a year, at this higher level, especially if I get to see other high-level officials, it comes out during conversations and in talks,” he said.

Cayetano stressed that if President Rodrigo R. Duterte would give special instruction, this would certainly be tackled.

The official’s first meeting will be Wednesday afternoon and another prime discussion will be on March 23.

After the meetings, Cayetano said he would meet with certain groups involved in the development of smart cities, or engineering that heavily relies on information and communitcation technologies to increase efficiency.

No company names nor areas in the Philippines eyed for smart city development were bared yet, but Cayetano said possible facilities may include jail management system.

“Itong gumagawa ng smart cities, isa rin nilang ginagawa yung jail management system so maybe if we are having a problem na kahit sinong ilagay diyan (sa kulungan), nagkakaproblema pa rin, baka technology yung solusyon (Those who establish smart cities, they also delve in jail management system so maybe whoever is designated there will surely have the same problem. Maybe technology is the solution),” he said.

Asked if joint exploration is one of the visit’s agenda, Cayetano said the subject, even in his previous foreign ministers’ level meetings, had always come up during talks.

During his last visit in China after a Milan trip, Cayetano said he even met with Chinese Vice Foreign Ministry Kong Xuanyou and discussed the country’s stand on the Benham Rise and its stand on the joint exploration.

“This (visit) will be a continuation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cayetano congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on his term extension.

“On behalf of the Filipino people, I would like to congratulate President Xi Jinping on his renewed mandate as president of the People’s Republic of China, purusant to his overwhelming re-election,” he said in a press conference.

On March 17, China’s National People’s Congress re-elected Xi with zero objection from its 2,970 members. PNA