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Duterte meets with Xi in Beijing

Helen Flores, Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
Duterte meets with Xi in Beijing
WHEN OLD FRIENDS MEET: photo from the Chinese Foreign Ministry shows Chinese President Xi Jinping with former president Rodrigo Duterte at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing last Monday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Former president Rodrigo Duterte and China’s President Xi Jinping met on Monday “as old friends” in Beijing, where the Chinese leader asked the former Philippine chief executive to continue promoting “friendly cooperation” between the two nations.

According to China Central Television (CCTV), Xi met with Duterte at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

Asked about the trip, President Marcos said it was “personal” and his predecessor did not have to seek permission.

But he expressed hope that Duterte would brief him on what transpired during the Beijing meeting.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza, also said it does not have an official information of Duterte’s China visit. Duterte, according to reports, expressed his willingness to further promote Philippines-China friendship.

Chinese state media reported that former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea was with Duterte during the meeting, while Xi was with State Counselor Wang Yi, Communist Party of China (CPC) Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs member Ma Zhaoxu, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Sun Weidong and Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying.

“It was a meeting of two old friends,” Medialdea said. He added that Duterte was in China to attend the inauguration of a school building named after his mother, Soledad Roa Duterte, in Fuzhou province.

Xi, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude to Duterte for playing “an important role” in promoting Philippines-China relations.

“I hope you will continue to play an important role in the friendly cooperation (between China and the Philippines),” Xi told Duterte during the meeting.

“During your tenure as president of the Philippines, you had resolutely made the strategic choice to improve relations with China in an attitude of being responsible to the people and to history,” Xi said.

On Twitter, Chinese foreign ministry’s Hua said Xi “appreciates” the strategic choice Duterte made to improve relations with China during his presidency.

“China values its relations with the Philippines and is ready to work with the Philippines to promote the steady and sustained growth of bilateral relations,” the Chinese foreign ministry tweeted.

Medialdea said that Duterte, during a courtesy call on Xi, voiced his deep appreciation for China’s being the first to donate COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines in the early part of the pandemic.

WPS issue

President Marcos, in an interview in Tondo, expressed hope Duterte was able to bring up the Chinese coast guard’s continued provocations in the West Philippine Sea during his meeting with Xi.

“So, I hope they were able to talk about the issues that we are seeing now, the shadowing and other matters. All of these things that we are seeing now, I hope they discussed it so there can be progress because that’s what we are after, continued communication,” he added. Duterte’s daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, was with Marcos during the media interview. They were in Tondo for the launch of the food stamp program.

“I welcome any new lines of communication. If that is president PRRD, then good; it’s not important who talked (with China) as long as it helps,” he said, referring to the former president by his initials.

“I am sure that he will have – not a report – I am sure he will be able to tell us what happened during their conversation and see how that affects us,” Marcos said.

China continues to ignore the July 12, 2016 ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which affirmed the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea and nullified Beijing’s claims over almost the entire South China Sea.

Duterte’s meeting with Xi took place a day before the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected the Philippine government’s appeal against ICC’s giving its prosecutors the authority to investigate drug-related killings during his administration and when he was still Davao City mayor.

The administration of the late former president Benigno Aquino III challenged China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. It was the first time a nation challenged China over its maritime claim.

‘Strongly worded’

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the chamber is poised to approve a “strongly worded” resolution condemning Beijing’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea and calling on the Philippine government to bring the issue before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

He said the resolution, authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, is almost guaranteed to get support from “95 percent” of senators.

“This coming week we will pass a strongly worded resolution of our disgust, of our frustrations and anger of the people on the repeated incursions,” Zubiri said.

“That is the stand of the Senate, 95 percent of senators are in unison in condemning this creeping invasion. We need the international community’s help in condemning this,” he added. He declined to comment on Duterte’s China trip.

“I just saw that news, I don’t want to comment because I don’t know the circumstances,” he said. “Maybe it’s just a private visit.”

Meanwhile, former US defense attaché to Australia Raymond Powell bared the presence of 34 Chinese maritime militia vessels around Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, and surmised Beijing’s deployment of “unusually large number” of ships in the area may have been intended to prevent the Philippine military from resupplying its tiny garrison on the grounded BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

In a tweet, Powell said there was also a Chinese coast guard vessel in the area, with body number 5304.

“The reason for this heavy presence in the heart of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is unclear, except perhaps to interfere with future resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal,” Powel said.

The STAR has sought confirmation of Powell’s tweet from the Philippine Coast Guard but has not yet received a reply. -- Evelyn Macairan, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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