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