Duterte visit sig­nals con­struc­tive road ahead

Clouds over South China Sea be­gin to dis­si­pate as Bei­jing wel­comes new Philip­pine pres­i­dent

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By AN BAIJIE and ZHANG YUNBI Con­tact the writ­ers at an­bai­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China and the Philip­pines agreed to ad­dress dis­putes in the South China Sea peace­fully and with the sov­er­eign states that are di­rectly in­volved, ac­cord­ing to a joint state­ment re­leased on Fri­day dur­ing a state visit to Bei­jing by the is­land na­tion’s Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte.

The state­ment high­lighted “the im­por­tance of han­dling the dis­putes in the SouthChina Sea in an ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner”.

“Both sides also reaf­firm the im­por­tance of ... ad­dress­ing their ter­ri­to­rial and ju­ris­dic­tional dis­putes by peace­ful means, without re­sort­ing to the threat or use of force, through friendly con­sul­ta­tions and ne­go­ti­a­tions by sov­er­eign states di­rectly con­cerned,” the state­ment said.

It also said that the two coun­tries “agree to con­tinue dis­cus­sions on con­fi­dence­build­ing mea­sures to in­crease mu­tual trust and con­fi­dence”.

“In ad­di­tion to and without prej­u­dice to other mech­a­nisms, a bi­lat­eral con­sul­ta­tion mech­a­nism can be use­ful”, with reg­u­lar meet­ings on mat­ters of con­cern to ei­ther side on the SouthChina Sea, the state­ment said.

Duterte’s China trip, from Tues­day to Fri­day, was his first of­fi­cial visit to a for­eign coun­try out­side ASEAN.

The visit took place against a back­drop of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing China-Philip­pines re­la­tions re­sult­ing from the pur­suit of an ar­bi­tra­tion case against China on the South China Sea ini­ti­ated by Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor, Benigno Aquino III.

Jia Duqiang, an ex­pert on South­east Asia at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said he is “op­ti­mistic with pru­dence” about the re­ver­sal in re­la­tions that took place dur­ing Duterte’s visit.

“Bei­jing should con­tinue tack­ling the South China Sea dis­putes with great cau­tion in diplomacy, em­bark on more ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and keep the con­sen­sus on seek­ing con­sen­sus,” Jia said.

Duterte “tem­po­rar­ily put aside the ar­bi­tra­tion and low­ered its pro­file, which does not mean putting an end to the is­sue”, Jia added.

De­spite the rains cloud­ing Bei­jing through­out the fi­nal day of his visit, Duterte’s en­thu­si­asm didn’t cool. He used the day to seek more in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for his coun­try.

Be­fore leav­ing on Fri­day evening, he led his key cabi­net mem­bers to a gath­er­ing of own­ers of small and medi­um­size en­ter­prises from both coun­tries, and vis­ited the global head­quar­ters of Bank of China.

At the bank, Duterte wit­nessed the sign­ing of bi­lat­eral agree­ments on trade and in­vest­ment.

Ber­nadette Ro­mulo Puyat, un­der­sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture in the Philip­pines, said she is happy about po­ten­tial rise of banana and pineap­ple ex­ports to China.

“We wish that we could learn from your good ex­pe­ri­ences, so we can be­come as de­vel­oped as China as right now,” she said.

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