President Rodrigo Duterte's recently concluded visit to China yielded four agreements, including the grant of 500 billion Chinese yuan (P3.6 billion) for the construction of bridges along Pasig River and drug-rehabilitation facilities.
Duterte was in China for a 3-day visit that concluded Monday primarily to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which focuses on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy project aimed at reviving the ancient Silk Road trading route through the building of infrastructure across Asia, Europe and Africa.
Duterte’s trip to China, the second since he assumed the presidency more than 10 months ago, was capped by a bilateral meeting with Xi.
The meeting between the two leaders ended with the signing of four pacts, with the first one involving the P3.6-billion grant to “conduct feasibility studies for major projects, construction of the drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation center and bridges crossing the Pasig River.”
In several of his speeches, Duterte mentioned China's offer to build bridges along Pasig River as a testament to the two countries' deepening ties that are often challenged by the South China Sea dispute.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has chosen to downplay Manila’s dispute with Beijing, in exchange for improved economic relations.
In return, besides pledging billions of pesos worth of Chinese investments to the Philippines, Beijing has also expressed support for Duterte's controversial war on illegal drugs, a campaign widely criticized by the West.
Duterte, who has repeatedly expressed aversion toward Manila’s traditional ally Washington, has turned to Beijing to improve the country’s aging infrastructure and strengthen its military, regarded as one of Asia’s weakest. Such moves by the Duterte have been criticized by his political foes, who accuse the Filipino leader of selling the country’s sovereignty.
The Philippines’ participation in the Silk Road initiative is seen to help Manila address its infrastructure problem, as the government vows to improve inter-island transportation which it says is the solution to poverty.
PACTS ON ENERGY, HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT, PUBLISHING
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) on energy cooperation was also signed by the Department of Energy and China’s National Energy Administration. This aims to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the electric power, oil and natural gas sectors, and others.
The National Economic and Development Authority and China’s Ministry of Commerce, meanwhile, also signed an MOU on cooperation in human resource development. This pact will serve as the framework for the Philippines and China to strengthen cooperation in human resource development and promoting personnel exchanges.
The last MOU, involving news and publishing, was signed by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and China’s State Council Information Office.
This pact aims to enhance the two sides’ “capabilities in the field of international communication and publishing, to undertake joint or individual activities and programs that help strengthen cooperation between news organizations.”