President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he would be glad to take in more help from China, as Manila under his government seeks improved ties with Beijing long strained by the bitter South China Sea dispute.
Duterte is set to fly to Beijing Saturday night to attend the "Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation," a summit aimed at reviving China’s ancient Silk Road trading system through the construction of infrastructure in Asia, Europe and Africa.
“China is not really over generous but is awash with money. Sabi ko kung matulungan kami niyo eh di mabuti,” Duterte said in a speech before the Filipino community in Hong Kong.
“To date they have promised so many things, may mga grant na halos bigay na.”
During his first visit to China in October last year, he was able to bag $24 billion in investment pledges. The president has also been touting China’s promise to build two bridges across Pasig River for free.
The president also noted how the country has benefited from China under his administration, saying Beijing has since lifted trade restrictions and allowed its citizens to again tour the Philippines.
Employing the “carrot and stick” strategy, China during the administration of then-President Benigno Aquino III imposed trade and tourism restrictions against the Philippines amid the two countries’ dispute over the South China Sea. China barred the entry of Philippine agricultural products into its market, citing quality issues.
Since Duterte assumed the presidency, he has sought to improve relations with Beijing, setting aside the maritime dispute and choosing to downplay Manila’s South China Sea arbitration victory against the Asian giant.
“Remember, there was a time na ang export natin parang di tinatanggap dito . . . Not until after I declared that I’m veering away, mag-split ako, and chart my own independent agreements regarding trade and commerce to anybody who want to talk to us,” he said.
Duterte recalled how he and his Cabinet members once brought up with their Chinese counterparts the trade restrictions that had hurt the agricultural sector.
“I was really frank with them. Sabi ko I come here in the spirit of friendship and goodwill, wala akong hinihingi sa inyo, except that I’d like to be informed of whatever happened to the quality of our exports kasi di niyo na tinatanggap,” he said.
“It has something to do with quality, and yet before we were doing alright. It boils down to relationships. All because of geopolitics.”
Duterte will be in Beijing along with 27 other heads of states to attend the summit. He will also hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.