GMA  INVITED  TO  VISIT  BEIJING  IN  SEPTEMBER

MANILA,  July 21, 2004 (STAR) President Arroyo may visit Beijing, China this September.

Malacañang sources told The STAR that Mrs. Arroyo had received a formal invitation to address the International Conference of Asia Political Parties to be held in Beijing from Sept. 3 to 5.

While the invitation is still under consideration, the President’s presence in the international gathering reportedly got a boost from no less than Speaker Jose de Venecia, who heads the administration Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party.

The STAR learned that De Venecia wrote Mrs. Arroyo to suggest that she could use the visit as a chance to talk with her Chinese counterpart over the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

In a letter to Mrs. Arroyo, which was reportedly endorsed by outgoing Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr., De Venecia suggested a meeting to discuss the setting up of a "fishing corridor" where claimant countries, like the Philippines and China, could jointly exploit the rich fishing grounds of the Spratlys.

De Venecia told the President that he also wrote to the Chinese ambassador in Manila about the proposal.

De Venecia raised the proposal on reports that China had been prospecting in the Spratlys.

The Philippines is among the signatories to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties signed in November 2004 by China and the ten members of the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN).

Four ASEAN members have laid claim to the Spratlys: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The other claimants are Taiwan and China.

Incoming Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap told The STAR yesterday that he is open to the proposal.

"We’re not a very rich country with a powerful maritime force like China. This is a (workable) arrangement and we cannot just look away from it," he said.

Yap said that De Venecia had already talked with the Chinese ambassador about the proposal and a technical group was working on the mechanics of the "fishing corridor." — Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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