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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 8:44 PM) President Benigno Aquino III has ordered Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who left Thursday night, to seek an audience with Chinese vice president Xi Jinping at the sidelines of an exposition in Nanning.
Roxas was designated as Aquino's special envoy to the 9th China-Asean Expo from Sept. 21 to 25 in Nanning. He and Lacierda left Thursday night for China.
Lacierda said earlier the Department of Foreign Affairs is now arranging the meeting with Xi.
"Secretary Roxas has been authorized to relay to the Chinese Vice President what President Aquino wanted to relay to Chinese President Hu Jintao," the Palace official said.
Aquino was supposed to meet with Hu during the 20th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in Vladivostok two weeks ago but the bilateral dialog did not push through.
Lacierda also denied the planned meeting with Xi was meant as a damage control after the word war between Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday over Trillanes' work as back-channel negotiator with China, without seeking permission from the chamber for his six trips to China and without rendering any report to Enrile.
Roxas, Lacierda fly out
On Thursday evening, Roxas left at 7:35 pm with Secretary Edwin Lacierda and Eric Gutierrez on board China Southern Airlines flight CZ 398.
The CAEXPO is to be held from September 21 to 25 in Nanning, China
Roxas arrived 30 minutes before the flight took off and was seen using the ramp access to catch his flight.
Del Rosario's idea to send Roxas
Lacierda, in an impromptu interview, was quoted saying that it was Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario who recommended that President Aquino designate Roxas as his Special Envoy to the Expo.
CAEXPO, co-sponsored by China and ASEAN, is an international event held annually since 2004 with the objective of promoting the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA). The CAEXPO is an excellent platform for cooperation in the fields of infrastructure investment, trade, and tourism, among others.
The Chinese Government had earlier requested the Philippines to send a high-level delegation to the CAEXPO. China’s Vice President Xi Jinping is attending it.
The President of Myanmar, Prime Ministers of Laos and Vietnam, and the Deputy Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Thailand are expected to attend the CAEXPO.
The DFA said it is making arrangements for Secretary Roxas and the Philippine delegation to meet with high-level Chinese officials during the duration of the China-ASEAN Expo.