MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte vowed Thursday to uphold the Philippines' independent foreign policy as the country sought deeper involvement in China's Belt and Road Initiative.
During a meeting of world leaders in Beijing, Duterte reaffirmed Manila's commitment to multilateralism.
"I reaffirm my country’s commitment to the collective vision of common prosperity through cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and as equal sovereign states," he said in a speech during a high-level meeting of leaders at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.
"In pursuit of our independent foreign policy, we will uphold and defend the open and rules-based international order."
China plans to connect with Africa, Europe, and the rest of Asia through a series of ports, railways, roads, and industrial parks under the Belt and Road Initiative.
If fully realized, the global infrastructure plan could shape the world economic landscape in the next decades.
The Philippine leader said multilateralism under the Belt and Road Initiative complements the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' plan for connectivity and creates an environment that fosters bilateral relations.
"We built the current rules-based order because nobody wins in a zero-sum game. This brought us sustained peace and [unparalleled] prosperity. From building a global free trade regime to laying down the rules that govern the use of oceans, multilateralism allowed us to undertake global governance through cooperation," he said.
ON DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE
Duterte, in his speech, also urged his fellow state leaders to redefine "international cooperation" to ensure that development assistance would not foster dependence.
"Development assistance should build on capacities of nations. It should never foster dependence," he said.
"It should be based on reciprocal benefits, motivated by keen interest in partner states to bring about real progress. This should be the new normal. And it is in our interest to work together to make this a reality," he added.
In distancing the Philippines from its longtime ally the United States, Duterte sought closer ties with Asia’s largest economy even as Manila has yet to settle its maritime dispute with Beijing.
China has refused to recognize a United Nations-backed arbitral ruling that invalidated its sweeping claims over the vast majority of the South China Sea.