Philippine Official Denies RP Sending Rep to Nobel Rites

Philippine Official Denies RP Sending Rep to Nobel Rites

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MANILA, Phils. -- The Philippine government denied that it would send a representative to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway on Friday after being criticized for its decision to skip attending the event.

In a text message to GMANews.TV on Friday, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning head Ricky Carandang said reports that the Philippine government has changed its mind about the issue were "not true."

According to the Twitter account of the Reuters news agency, the "Nobel committee says 19 countries set to miss ceremony; Ukraine and the Philippines to attend after earlier decision to skip event."

However, when asked to confirm reports that the Philippine Embassy in Oslo, Norway informed the Nobel Prize Committee that they would be sending a representative, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Ed Malaya said: "I do not have confirmation on that."

The DFA had earlier decided not to send a representative to the Nobel rites because the Philippine ambassador to Norway was scheduled to attend another function.

Not a Big Issue

On Thursday, a Palace official said the Philippines' decision to skip the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honoring imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo should not be treated as a big issue.

Carandang pointed out that attendance at the ceremony was optional.

"From what I understand our ambassador to Norway is going to be attending another function at hindi siya makakapunta sa Peace Prize awarding. The attendance of that is optional so I don't think that's going to be, that should be a big issue," Carandang said in an ambush interview in Malacañang on Thursday.

The Philippines is among 19 countries that will be skipping the ceremony, along with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco.

"Chinese pressure"

The Center for International Law earlier issued a statement urging the Philippine government not to bow to Chinese pressure to withdraw its participation in the Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremonies.

"More than ever, we are called to uphold free expression as a cornerstone of democracy," said Prof. Harry Roque, Centerlaw chairperson.

A New York (NY) Times report on December 8 said the DFA decided to skip the event to avoid annoying China.

"Philippine press reports quoted diplomats on Wednesday as saying that Manila opted out of the ceremony because it did not want to annoy China, already angered over a bungled hostage rescue in August that left eight Hong Kong residents dead," the NY Times said.

The Philippine government tried to seek an audience with leaders in China to explain the penalties Aquino decided to mete out to those involved in the bus siege.

However, the Chinese government reportedly could not accommodate into its schedule the Philippine delegation led by Vice-President Jejomar Binay that was supposed to fly to China.

Leaked Diplomatic Cable

In a leaked diplomatic cable uploaded by WikiLeaks on December 4, the U.S. embassy in Beijing told Washington in January 2009 that China might exert "economic pressure" on the Philippines.

According to the cable message, China might put pressure on the Philippines to gain support against Japan's rising military strength in the Asia-Pacific region and the US' own military initiatives.

Carandang, however, said on Thursday he was "not aware of any pressure from China for us not to attend."

Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.

Liu took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China.