Duterte expected in Beijing Wednesday night
BEIJING — President Rodrigo Duterte was expected here on Wednesday night for a much-awaited meeting with three of China’s highest officials, marking his fifth official visit to this country since he took office in 2016.
Malacañang earlier said the President’s four-day visit to the Chinese capital was upon the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has openly praised President Duterte’s efforts to patch up diplomatic relations between the two countries after maritime disputes created tension during the previous administration.
President Duterte had said that he would bring up with Xi during talks on Thursday the Philippines’ landmark victory in the international arbitral court that recognized Manila’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea over China’s competing claims.
The area is believed to be rich in natural gas reserves and other marine resources.
Interestingly, all the events that the Chief Executive would attend in his Beijing trip were scheduled late in the afternoon or early evening, a departure from the usual midmorning activities of visiting foreign leaders.
President’s sole prerogative
After their bilateral meeting, the President and Xi were set to witness the signing of several business agreements at the Diaoyutai State Guest House here.
A few weeks ago, the President said it was time for him to discuss with the Chinese leader the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored the Philippines’ claim in the West Philippines Sea.
But Foreign Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said it was the President’s sole prerogative to discuss the issue with Xi.
“We cannot preempt what the President will discuss in particular regarding the arbitral ruling. It’s [his] call,” Montealegre told reporters last week.
After Xi, the President was set to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday at The Great Hall of the People.
He would then travel to Guangzhou, Guangdong province, to watch the opening game of the Philippine national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas against the Italians in the Fiba World Cup on Saturday.
The President earned the ire of Filipino basketball fans for saying that Gilas would surely lose to its taller rivals, and suggested that fans put their bets on the Chinese squad instead.
The President was initially set to visit a school building in Fujian province built in honor of his late mother, Soledad Duterte, but it was moved to a later date due to “logistical” reasons.
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