China trip tests diplomat Duterte's shift from US

Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 14 2016 05:55 PM

Xi Jinping and President Rodrigo Duterte. File/Composite

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China will test his diplomatic savvy and determine if the Philippines could actually rely on its Asian neighbor for better economic ties than its traditional Western allies, a former envoy said Friday.

Duterte's remarks against the United States, European Union, and even the United Nations were all meant to "build the confidence of the Chinese to trust him," said ex-Ambassador Jose Apolinario Lozada.

The President's Oct. 18 to 21 state visit will now show if China would reciprocate through billions of dollars in economic packages, Lozada said.

"It's really a very crucial endeavor for the President," he told ABS-CBN News.

"I have to admit that the China visit is a make-or-break visit in terms of our independent foreign policy as well as in terms of our economic and political survival among the community of nations."

Lozada said the trip would also be successful if Duterte could convince China to allow Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.

Beijing has ignored the Philippines' victory in an international tribunal ruling in July.

The Hague-based tribunal invalidated Beijing's claim over most of the South China Sea and said it should not drive away other fishermen from the area.

Lozada acknowledged that Duterte's diplomatic style might be considered "rough."

"But at least he's open and he tells exactly what he wants," he said.

"That is a new venture in diplomatic practice but let's see. Maybe he's the first one to do it and maybe we will be successful."

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon earlier warned that the Philippines might lose some $3 billion in official development assistance (ODA) if Duterte continued to "insult" the country's allies.

Lozada said Duterte could work to get from China what the Philippines might lose from the US and other allies in financial aid.

But he said the "better deal" would be to continue getting our ODA from the West plus additional assistance from China."