In this Nov. 20, 2018 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte accompanies Chinese President Xi Jinping as the latter is accorded foyer honors upon his arrival at the Malacañan Palace for his state visit to the Philippines.
Presidential Photo/King Rodriguez
Chinese boats in Philippine waters may come up at Duterte's Beijing visit
( - April 11, 2019 - 4:13pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping might discuss the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea this month, Malacañang said Thursday.

China has invited Duterte to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

This would be the seventh meeting between the two leaders.

Meeting on the sidelines

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the presence of Chinese fishing boats, believed to be part of its maritime militia, might be discussed as the Philippines had supposedly filed a diplomatic protest over this.According to Panelo, Duterte and Xi might schedule a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum.

"I do not know if he (Duterte) will raise that. My educated guess is since we have already raised that, they may respond to that during the bilateral talk," Panelo said in a press briefing.

Malacañang added that Beijing would have to respond to the government's protest against hundreds of Chinese vessels swarming the vicinity of Pag-asa Island.

There have also been reports that Chinese ships have been spotted near Kota Island and Panata Island, which are also in the Spratly chain.

More Chinese vessels have been operating in the West Philippine Sea since the Philippines started repairing its facilities on Pag-asa Island, one of the largest features in the Spratlys.

Panelo noted that the Philippines has been "reciprocating" China's "acts of kindness" by being "diplomatically nice" to them.

READ: Fact check: Duterte's claims on US aid to military

The Malacañang mouthpiece also said that China was one of the first to assist the Philippines when conflict ensued in Marawi City two years ago.

Panelo said Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua told him that Beijing appreciates how Manila responds to questions about reported presence of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters.

"He appreciated the action of the government of not immediately reacting negatively to whatever report it receives vis-a-vis China's actions in the South China Sea," Panelo said.

Panelo stressed that while the Philippines is "friendly" to China, it would also assert the country's sovereignty.

Asked if Beijing should reciprocate Manila's "kindness" by removing its ships in Philippine waters Panelo said, "We're rupposed to be friends and as the president says — friends don't do that. If we are friends, we we should be friendly in terms of our actions." — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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