MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he will soon board a Chinese ship which will visit Philippine shores, underscoring the Philippines’ flourishing relations with Beijing under the tough-talking leader.
“China is sending one of its biggest ships. I told the ambassador of China that I will board it,” Duterte said, without elaborating on the supposed port visit.
Back in January, Duterte boarded a Russian warship, as he sought to forge a closer relationship with Moscow.
“Niyaya ko ang mga battleships nila. Nung una sabi ko ang Russia, nagkita kami ni [Russian Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev, ‘Ipakita mo ang mga vessel mo, mga navy mo.’ So they sent one. I went on board visited it. It was good. I said, talo mo ang mga Amerikano nito,” Duterte said.
(I told them to send their battleships here. I told Medvedev to send one. So they sent one. I went on board and visited it. It was good. I said, you can beat the Americans with this one.)
Duterte also said he may visit a Japanese warship touring the disputed South China Sea.
But when US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visited the Philippines earlier this month, Duterte only sent three of his Cabinet secretaries.
“Yung dumaan na Amerikano, Vinson, the aircraft carrier, sabi ko si Vit Aguirre na lang at hindi pa nakasakay iyan ng barko,” Duterte said, referring to his Justice secretary.
(The American ship that visited here, Vinson, the aircraft carrier, I just sent Vit Aguirre there since he has not yet boarded a ship.)
Philippines-China relations, which were strained by the South China Sea dispute during the previous administration, have greatly improved since Duterte took office.
Duterte has chosen not to antagonize China over the dispute, in exchange for more vibrant economic ties. Last year, he often assailed the US government, then headed by President Barack Obama, for criticizing his bloody war on drugs.
The president recently drew flak for his response to reports that China was planning to build on Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea, a rocky outcrop 124 nautical miles off Zambales.
China has belied the reports.