MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday touted “high-quality” projects with China as he sought for Manila’s inclusion in the Belt and Road Forum.
In his bilateral meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Duterte reaffirmed Manila’s ties with Beijing and called for a “comprehensive, strategic cooperation.”
“The Philippine-China must continue to work together to explore new areas of cooperation and partnership. We look forward to a productive discussion on matters of mutual interest and concern,” Duterte said in his opening remarks during the meeting.
Duterte is visiting China for the 4th time as president to attend the Belt and Road Forum, a global infrastructure plan that eyes to connect China with Europe, Africa, and the rest of Asia through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.
His visit comes with the backdrop of rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea due to the growing presence of Beijing vessels and the reported mass harvesting of clams by the Chinese.
“The forum provides another opportunity to renew and reaffirm our valued relations based on mutual trust, respect, and friendship and must continue to grow strength and meaning in the coming years,” he said.
The Philippine leader added that Manila envisions “high-quality and good impact projects” with Beijing so that Filipinos can soon feel the “benefits” of the countries’ ties.
“The sooner they are completed, the sooner people on the ground will feel the benefits of Philippine-China relations,” Duterte said.
For his part, Xi said he thinks “highly” of China’s relation with the Philippines and called President Duterte a “genuine friend and trusted partner.”
“The Philippines is an important part of China’s Maritime Belt and Road Initiative,” the Chinese leader said in local language.
Malacañang said the Chinese leader told President Duterte during the meeting that Beijing would provide more resources to Luzon and Mindanao to “spur regional economic growth.”
China is interested in promoting Clark Green City in Pampanga by building an industrial park, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Xi also committed to provide 1 billion Yuan to the Philippines.
“We consider the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) as articulated by PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) as another opportunity to renew and reaffirm our valued relationship, which we must continue to foster in the coming years with an aspiration that our fellow Filipinos will feel the true benefits of the PH-China relations,” Panelo said.
Duterte had just hosted Xi in the Chinese president's historic state visit to the Philippines in November, where they reaffirmed friendship between the two countries and signed several agreements covering a range of areas.
The Philippine leader called Xi’s Manila visit a “watershed moment in the Philippine-China ties.”
“The decision to elevate bilateral ties to a comprehensive, strategic cooperation affirms the Philippines and China’s strong desire to further deepen and broaden this engagement,” Duterte said.
Malacañang said the leaders also witnessed the signing of 2 bilateral agreements.
The first agreement is the Exchange of Letters on Production Capacity and Investment Cooperation between the Philippines and China which proposed a project list that will serve as the “focus of cooperation” between the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
The second deal meanwhile is the “Handover Certificate Grant-Aid for the Dangerous Drugs Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers Project” between the 2 nations.
“This is a ceremonial hand-over of the drug treatment facilities in Sarangani and Agusan del Norte provided by China through grant,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
-with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News