PRESIDENT AQUINO MEETS WITH ITALIAN PRESIDENT, DISCUSSES SOUTH CHINA SEA, GLOBAL TERRORISM

ROME, Italy — Italian President Sergio Mattarella has affirmed the Philippines’ stance in the South China Sea issue, saying all claimants must respect the rule of law.

During his meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III at the Quirinal Palace here on Wednesday, President Mattarella affirmed the Philippines’ adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Italian leader also expressed his country’s support for the upholding of the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and acknowledged the path that the Philippines has taken for the peaceful resolution of the dispute.

The Philippines has an ongoing case against China in the International Arbitral Tribunal regarding its claim on the South China Sea.

Both leaders also expressed solidarity in the campaign against global terrorism, giving their shared view on the need to intensify efforts to halt Islamic radicalization.

Also during the meeting, President Aquino thanked Italy for its support for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the debt for development program.

Mattarella raised the European Union’s (EU) concern over the influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East as many EU members still grapple to address the issue at this time.

President Aquino, on the other hand, cited the Philippines’ record in assisting refugees.

He also highlighted during the meeting with Mattarella the need to improve the relations between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

On the Philippines’ domestic affairs, the Italian president expressed great interest in the Mindanao peace process after President Aquino briefed him on the ongoing peace initiative in the south.

Matarella also congratulated the Philippines for its successful hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit last month, its high economic growth rate, and the administration’s anti-corruption campaign.

He also recognized the significant contributions of more than 171,000 Filipinos working in Italy. PNA