Duterte visits Chinese warships in his hometown
DAVAO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday visited Chinese warships docked in his hometown and raised the prospect of future joint exercises, highlighting fast-warming relations despite competing claims in the South China Sea.
Duterte made his visit a day after issuing a chairman’s statement on behalf of Asean that took a soft stance towards Chinese expansionism and island building in the waterway.
He praised the guided missile destroyer Chang Chun as “very impressive.”
“It’s all carpeted inside. It’s like a hotel,” he said after being presented with a Chinese naval cap.
“This is part of confidencebuilding and goodwill and to show we are friends and that is why I welcome them here,” Duterte said of the three-vessel flotilla that arrived in Davao City on Mindanao island on Sunday.
On possible joint exercises between the Philippines and China, he said: “Yes, I said I agree. There can be joint exercises.”
He suggested they be held in the southern Philippines, perhaps in the Sulu Sea, where Muslim extremists had been active.
Duterte has played down the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China in favour of seeking greater economic aid and investment from it.
But, in the statement issued after the Asean summit, Duterte took note of “concerns expressed by some leaders over recent developments in the area”.