Agreed: No talks about 'contentious PH-China issues' during APEC, says DFA

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Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and China President Xi Jinping

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines and China have agreed that no "contentious issues" will be raised during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting in Manila on November 17 to 20, as confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

"In the context of APEC, we [Philippines and China] both agreed that it is an economic forum and it won't be the proper venue to discuss political and security issues," Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, DFA spokesperson, said on Tuesday (November 10).

This was among the things agreed on by the two parties after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's working visit ahead of APEC.

Related: DFA chief meets with Chinese counterpart for bilateral talks

It was the first time for Wang to visit the Philippines since he was appointed foreign minister in 2013, despite numerous invitations from Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. It was the same year when the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China before the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague.

A bilateral meeting with Del Rosario was held at the DFA, but Jose said the two parties did not touch on the South China Sea issue due to the pending case before the Arbitral Tribunal.

Wang, however, said China would always be open for dialogue on the maritime dispute, but he did not promise that there would be one during the APEC summit.

Aside from that, Wang visited the country to check on its preparations for APEC to ensure that Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival would be safe, comfortable, and successful.

Meanwhile, both parties agreed to resume foreign ministry consultations to improve bilateral relations. The last consultation was held in Beijing in 2013.

Jose said among the things that could be discussed during the consultation include cultural exchanges, education, and tourism.

The two countries have yet to discuss how soon the consultations would resume.

On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China would want to improve relations with the Philippines despite the South China Sea issue. It also said the APEC leaders' meeting would be an opportunity for bilateral talks between the two countries.

APEC's director General and Ambassador Marciano Paynor said a bilateral talk between the Philippines and China is not on the official agenda. However, he also said the South China Sea dispute might be discussed on the sidelines — if the economic leaders wish to do so.