Manila suspends classes, office work for Xi Jinping visit on Nov 20

Remigio Civitarese
Novembre 20, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here Tuesday for the first state visit to the Philippines by a Chinese head of state in 13 years.

The back and forth between the two Philippine voices comes as member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are caught between the competing interests of the United States and China, a reality that Singaporean President Lee Hsien Loong articulated this week. But ties have warmed under Duterte, who has not challenged Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea and has pivoted Manila away from Washington since he came to power in 2016. "Indeed, amity solves global disputes and even forges a more powerful alliance between both countries against threats to security, including terrorism, violent extremism, criminality, and the drug menace", he added.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo said the government has its own take on how to deal with China. His recent statement that China is now "in possession" of the South China Sea, however, has alarmed critics and observers.

China is also the country's top trading partner, leading export market for the Philippines and one of the largest sources of tourists to the Philippines.

At Asean, Duterte had called on the U.S.to stop military drills near disputed areas, saying China is already "in possession" of it. Pence last week said the USA supports a "free and open" Indo-Pacific and "will continue to sail and fly wherever worldwide law allows and our national interests demand". Xi's two-day visit to the country will have a tight schedule.

Duterte and Xi will have a bilateral meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room.

A restricted meeting and exchange of gifts will then follow before Duterte and Xi will attend the State Banquet at the Rizal Hall. On his last day in Manila, Xi will meet with House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Xi will also have a photo opportunity with Leaders of the Filipino-Chinese Community at Shangri-La.

"I am pleased with the current positive momentum of the Philippine-China relations", Duterte said.

"China and the Philippines are close neighbors with a thousand-year history of exchanges".

Panelo said Duterte has also chosen to set aside the ruling since he is aware that the Philippines can not match China's military and economic might, but if countries will pressure China to respect the ruling, the dynamics in the hotly contested area might evolve.

It will surely inject fresh and strong impetus into the good-neighborly relations and friendship between the two countries for the benefit of the two peoples, he said.

Opposition senators, on the other hand, filed a resolution seeking transparency in the oil and gas agreement and other deals regarding Philippine national resources that the two presidents will sign during Xi's visit.

China and the Philippines also signed an agreement to finance the Kaliwa dam project, deals to build a 581km railway line from Los Banos to Matnog, on currency swaps, and for infrastructure development in Duterte's hometown Davao.

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