Chi­nese vice-premier vis­its Duterte

New Straits Times - - World -

MANILA: Chi­nese Vice-Premier Wang Yang met Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s in Davao City on Fri­day, be­com­ing the most high-pro­file vis­i­tor from Bei­jing since two coun­tries long at odds sought to chart a new course in re­la­tions.

The vice-premier signed a sixyear de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme to work to­gether on trade and in­vest­ment, part of Duterte’s strat­egy to en­gage China as a buyer of Philip­pine farm and fish­eries pro­duce and a builder and fi­nancier of its in­fra­struc­ture.

“Wang Yang noted the need to fo­cus on com­mon in­ter­ests that bring more ben­e­fits than dif­fer­ences,” pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ernesto Abella said af­ter the closed-door meet­ing be­tween Duterte and Wang.

“The pres­i­dent said bi­lat­eral ties are found stronger, par­tic­u­larly in trade and com­merce, and reaf­firmed the im­por­tance of peace­ful set­tle­ment of dis­putes.”

It was un­clear if Wang and Duterte dis­cussed China’s de­ci­sion to start prepara­tory work this year for an en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion on the dis­puted Scar­bor­ough Shoal.

The Philip­pines has said it was as­sured China would not carry out any build­ing work there.

The six-year deal cov­ers loans, sup­port with fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies, grants for bridge con­struc­tion, a pro­posed Philip­pines-China in­dus­trial park, dams, rail­ways and agribusi­ness train­ing.

China last week com­mit­ted to fi­nance at least three Philip­pine in­fra­struc­ture projects worth US$3.4 bil­lion (RM15 bil­lion), two of which could be rolled out in the first half of this year.

Mean­while, the mil­i­tary blocked a group of law­mak­ers and se­cu­rity chiefs from vis­it­ing one of nine Philip­pine-held fea­tures in the dis­puted South China Sea due to safety is­sues, de­fence of­fi­cials said on Fri­day.

But a se­nior gen­eral said the can­cel­la­tion of this week’s trip to Thitu Is­land had more to do with con­cerns over how China would re­act.

Thitu Is­land is close to Subi Reef, one of seven man-made is­lands in the Spratlys that China is ac­cused of mil­i­taris­ing.

Five mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives were due to fly to Thitu Is­land on Thurs­day, while De­fence Min­is­ter Delfin Loren­zana and mil­i­tary chief Gen­eral Ed­uardo Ano were plan­ning a sep­a­rate visit on Fri­day.

The law­mak­ers had planned to as­sess up­grades and new fa­cil­i­ties needed for the Filipino fish­ing com­mu­nity of about 100 peo­ple liv­ing on the is­land.

De­fence min­istry spokesman Arse­nio An­do­long said land­ing on a por­ous run­way af­ter heavy rains was too dan­ger­ous.

“We will need at least five days of dry weather to harden and make it safe again for land­ing planes,” he said.

But Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Raul del Rosario, who heads the Philip­pine Western Com­mand, said there were con­cerns about how China would view the trip to Thitu Is­land.

“That is con­tested area, that is not 100 per cent ours,” he said in a Con­gres­sional hear­ing on Thurs­day. “That’s why we are con­cerned if you fly there. Ev­ery time an air­craft flies there, it gets a warn­ing and, there are times, they fire flares to­wards the air­craft.” Reuters

AFP PIC

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte (right) greet­ing Chi­nese VicePremier Wang Yang dur­ing a cour­tesy call at the pres­i­den­tial guest house in Davao City on Fri­day.

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