Duterte welcomes Chinese Premier to the Palace

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 15 2017 05:01 PM | Updated as of Nov 15 2017 09:08 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday welcomed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to the Palace as Manila continued efforts to improve ties with Beijing earlier marred by a bitter sea dispute.

Duterte and Li were scheduled to hold an expanded bilateral meeting with other Philippine and Chinese officials.

Li arrived in Manila earlier this week to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and Related Meetings.

A signing of various memoranda of agreements will also take place Wednesday.

One of the highlights of the event is the ceremonial launching of the China-funded Binondo-Intramuros and Estrella-Pantaleon Bridges Project and the Dangerous Drugs Abuse Treatment Rehabilitation Center Project.

A state banquet in honor of Li will cap the ceremonies.

Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has adopted a friendlier stance towards China, downplaying the maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing in pursuit of improved economic ties.

In defending his move to seek better ties, Duterte had previously said Manila cannot afford to go to war with Beijing, which invests heavily in its military.

Aside from the Philippines, ASEAN member-states Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also have overlapping claims to the sea with China and Taiwan.

In a meeting in Manila, the bloc and China agreed to begin negotiations on a code of conduct that would govern the disputed South China Sea. 

China, which claims almost all of the waters, has reclaimed several disputed reefs and fortified them with military features over the past few years.

It has continued to ignore the Philippines' landmark July 2016 victory before the United Nations arbitral tribunal, which invalidated its nine-dash line claim.