President Benigno Aquino III greets the crew of the second warship of the Philippine Navy, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz during a welcome ceremony as it docks Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, at Subic Freeport, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Manila, Philippines. The Philippines on Tuesday celebrated the arrival of the decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard cutter as its second major warship to challenge China's massive territorial claims in the South China Sea that Filipino officials say have intruded into their country's potentially oil-rich offshore territory. AP

(PHILSTAR) By Hrvoje Hranjski (Associated Press) The Philippine government said Thursday that China has withdrawn an invitation to President Benigno Aquino III to visit a trade fair in an apparent snub as the two countries are locked in a territorial dispute.

A spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, Raul Hernandez, said in a statement that Aquino has decided not to go ahead with the daylong visit to the China-ASEAN Expo scheduled for Tuesday in Nanning.

"The president has decided not to proceed ... taking into consideration China's request for the president to visit China at a more conducive time," Hernandez said.

He added that the Philippines "will continue to abide by our principled position that bilateral relations can advance despite differences."

China's Foreign Ministry in Beijing did not immediately respond to request for comment from The Associated Press.

Hernandez said that China had invited the Philippines to send a high-level delegation to visit Nanning a few months ago.

Aquino on Wednesday told reporters he would go, adding: "You may be surprised, I will travel next week. It's quite a long trip to China. I will leave at 5 in the morning and will be back at 5 in the afternoon."

"I don't want to overstay our welcome there," he said.

According to Hernandez, China informed the Philippines late Wednesday that Aquino should not proceed with the trip.

The Philippines is this year's "country of honor" at the trade fair, which takes place in China every year to highlight trade exchanges between Beijing and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Philippines and China have been embroiled in an increasingly antagonistic territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Last year, China seized a shoal near the northwestern coast of the Philippines, and this year demanded that the Philippine navy withdraw from Second Thomas Shoal father south.

The Philippines has further angered China by seeking U.N. arbitration to solve the disputes.

Dwarfed by China's mammoth military, the Philippines also has started negotiations with Washington to allow a larger number of U.S. troops to have access to local military camps, where they could also pre-position ships, assault helicopters and high-tech surveillance aircraft like the P3 Orion in close proximity to the South China Sea.

‘US troops’ presence needs Phl approval’By Jose Katigbak STAR Washington Bureau (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 1, 2013 - 12:00am
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WASHINGTON – The Philippines and the United States have agreed the increased rotational presence of US troops and equipment in local military facilities will be temporary and where and what can be pre-positioned will be subject to prior approval by Manila, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said.

“Both the Philippines and the US panels share the understanding that the American troops will not establish a permanent military presence in our country. That was clear during the discussion,” said Batino, chief Philippine negotiator, after the second round of talks for more US forces in the Philippines.

“From the beginning of the talks, we communicated to our counterparts that they could not establish a permanent presence in the Philippines in accordance with our Constitution,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, panel spokesperson, said, “Any approval will contain specific areas and time for the temporary activity.”

During the talks, Sorreta said the two teams of negotiators were able to establish “specific understandings” on the following:

Facilities used for pre-positioning remain the property of the Philippines; the Philippines maintains the primary responsibility and authority in matters of security; any pre-positioning or activities will not violate Philippine environmental laws; any construction will have to be removed by the US once the approved activity is completed; and stronger language on non-prepositioning of prohibited weapons.

Sorreta said the Philippines and the US were able to flesh out some details on humanitarian aid and disaster relief, including discussions on how training, equipment and materiel for maritime domain awareness would be used for humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts.

A number of provisions in the proposed framework agreement, however, are subject to further discussion, including the substantive issue of duration, he said.

“For the Americans, they typically have agreements like these that have a duration of 20 years. Right now, the Philippine delegation is looking at a much shorter duration,” Sorreta said. – With Jaime Laude

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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