Duterte: China, PH remain friends despite challenges

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    Fifth China visit. President Duterte receives a warm welcome from Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua (left) upon his arrival at the Beijing Capital International Airport in China Wednesday night. The President is on his fifth trip to China. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
    Fifth China visit. President Duterte receives a warm welcome from Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua (left) upon his arrival at the Beijing Capital International Airport in China Wednesday night. The President is on his fifth trip to China. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

    PRESIDENT Duterte last night told Chinese President Xi Jinping that despite recent challenges, the Philippines and China remain friends and said he believes their latest meeting would boost the ties between their countries.

    The President, during the meeting with XI at the Diaoytai Guest House in Beijing, thanked the Chinese President for his invitation and said “given our friendship and value of our ties, it is never too soon to resume our conversation.”

    Duterte did not mention the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which favored the Philippines and junked China’s nine-dash claim to the South China Sea. Duterte has said he intends to raise the issue with Xi during their meeting.

    Xi said he is happy to meet an old friend and said that he looks forward to continue working with Duterte to further improve Philippine-China relations.

    Before last night’s meeting, Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said in an interview the Duterte government has no “illusion” that the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China would be resolved overnight, but it is hopeful that a “higher level of consensus” would at least be reached during the meeting between Duterte and Xi.

    He noted the President has repeatedly said he would take up with Xi — at the proper time – the arbitral court ruling. The time has come to discuss it, the envoy added.

    Duterte arrived in China Wednesday night. It is his fifth visit to Beijing. Aside from the meeting with Xi, Duterte was scheduled to witness the signing of agreements on higher education, science and technology, and infrastructure and economic cooperation, and grace a dinner banquet hosted by Xi and meet Premier Li Keqiang.

    He will proceeds to Guangzhou to watch and cheer for Gilas Pilipinas in one of its scheduled games during the FIBA World Basketball World Cup. He will return to the Philippines on September 1.

    Sta. Romana said Duterte is banking on the “diplomatic capital” and “reservoir of goodwill and friendship” that he had built with Xi to help during the talks about the sensitive issue.

    “We have no illusion that we can solve the issue overnight. I think the important thing is to bring it to the fore of the diplomatic agenda… Of course in one sitting we don’t expect to solve everything but at least with the two heads of state meeting and hopefully reaching a higher level of consensus, we can push forward different areas,” he added.

    Sta. Romana also reiterated that maritime dispute is not the totality of the relationship between the Philippines and China.

    “He’s not coming here to impose it on China. He’s not coming here to provoke the Chinese. He’s coming here to exchange views, to understand where the differences lie. And to have a deeper understanding, and to see where there are areas where the gaps can be bridged. He’s here to build bridges, not to burn bridges with China,” he added.

    Sta. Romana said apart from the arbitral ruling, Duterte wants to discuss with Xi the enactment of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and a possible joint exploration for oil and other natural resources in the West Philippine Sea area. The President said he was amenable to a 60-40 sharing in favor of the Philippines.

    The envoy said discussions on the joint exploration have been going on for some time now, and the Philippines and China have agreed on the terms of reference for the possible joint venture.

    He did not disclose details but said that the Philippine in June submitted to China its proposed terms of reference while the Chinese agreed to it and submitted their notes of agreement last July.

    He added that the next step was to form now the joint steering committee and the joint entrepreneurial working committees.

    Sta. Romana said the President is “very much interested” to move forward on the joint oil and gas cooperation which would help address the energy needs of the country.

    “It’s very important for the Philippines, the basic issue here if you look at the big picture, is really one of energy security. Malampaya is running dry. And it’s going to affect our power supply. So that’s why the President is moving with a sense of urgency to move the process forward especially in his last three years. And so we hope to get it going as fast as possible,” he said.

    The Malampaya power facility provides up to 2,700 megawatts or about 30 percent of the power generation requirements of Luzon.

    Estimates showed that its gas reserves will be sufficient only until 2022 to 2024.