Duterte flies to China for 5th visit
MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte left Manila Wednesday evening to visit Beijing for the fifth time where he is set to meet with three of China’s highest officials.
Duterte left Villamor Airbase in Pasay City around 7:00 p.m.
The President earlier said he will speak his mind about the 2016 arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute and other issues affecting the country’s interests when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The two leaders are set to hold a bilateral meeting on Thursday evening before witnessing the signing of several agreements which the Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said may pertain to the areas of education, science and technology, and economic and social development.
After his meeting with Xi, the President is also set to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday afternoon before traveling to Guanzhou to meet Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and to watch the opening game of the Philippine national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas against Italy in the Fiba World Cup on Saturday.
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.
Aside from raising the Philippines’ landmark arbitral win against China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, Duterte said he would also push for the “exploitation of natural resources” in the West Philippine Sea through a joint oil exploration deal with China.
The President also claimed that he will raise the delay in the formulation of the South China Sea code of conduct.
The Philippines is the coordinator of the Asean-China dialogue partnership, where it leads negotiations in drafting a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
The Philippines, along with fellow Southeast Asian neighbors Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, have overlapping claims to the sea along with China. Despite an agreement to refrain from undertaking provocative actions, China has continued to expand and militarize territories that it claims in the maritime region.
In July 2016, the Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims to virtually the entire South China Sea.
China, however, has refused to honor the ruling while Duterte opted to shelve the decision and engaged China in bilateral talks. /muf
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