What to expect from Duterte at China’s Belt and Road Forum

Pia Ranada
What to expect from Duterte at China’s Belt and Road Forum
(UPDATED) The Philippine President will get to see his 'idol' Russian President Vladimir Putin again, and will give a speech about his country's experience with China

BEIJING, China (UPDATED) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Beijing on Saturday, May 13, to attend a two-day forum on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a huge trade and infrastructure plan linking Asia with Europe and Africa.

China’s Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will take place from Sunday to Monday, May 14 to 15, in Beijing.

At 11:20 pm on Saturday, Duterte landed at Beijing’s special airport terminal, and walked down the red carpet with his longtime partner Honeylet Avanceña.

He brought with him a large delegation that includes all his economic managers, and his secretaries of transportation, tourism, energy, and trade.

Duterte will join the 27 other heads of state and government attending the forum, to be hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping himself. (READ: FAST FACTS: China’s Belt and Road Forum)

This is Duterte’s second time in China’s capital as president, after his state visit in October 2016. 

PHILIPPINE DELEGATION. President Rodrigo Duterte brings to China his economic managers, and his secretaries of transportation, tourism, energy, and trade. Malacañang photo

Here’s a list of what to expect from his 3-day trip to Beijing:

Attend two leaders’ meetings about the Belt and Road Initiative. Duterte and the other leaders will participate in two closed-door roundtable summits on Monday, May 15, at the Yanqi Lake Convention Center. During these meetings, Xi is expected to elaborate on the BRI, China’s grand strategy to connect the economies of Asia, Europe, and Africa through the revival and expansion of the Silk Road trade routes. (READ: FAST FACTS: China’s Belt and Road Initiative) 

Give speeches. Duterte is expected to give two short speeches reacting to the forum and explaining the Philippines’ experience on economic cooperation with China.

See Putin, but not Trump. Duterte will again get a chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with his “friends” Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among the confirmed leaders attending. US President Donald Trump, another “friend” of his, however, is not attending. The US delegation will be led by Matthew Pottinger, a senior director at the National Security Council. 

Possibly talk to a North Korean minister. Duterte might also get a chance to talk to a North Korean minister. The rogue nation’s Minister of External Economic Relations, Kim Yong-jae, will reportedly attend the event. Duterte previously described North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un as someone who “relishes letting go of his missiles” and a “guy who simply wants to end the world.”

Participate in cultural events. Duterte will join other leaders in a Welcome Dinner at the Great Hall of the People on Sunday, the first day of the forum. He’ll also get to enjoy a cultural gala performance. On the forum’s last day, he will stand shoulder to shoulder with other leaders in a group photo.

CHINA'S AMBASSADOR. Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua at the arrival ceremony for President Rodrigo Duterte. Malacañang photo

Updates on infrastructure projects with China. Duterte and his delegation are likely to discuss with their counterparts the infrastructure projects which China has volunteered to help fund. These include the $75-million grant for two bridges on the Pasig River, the South Railway from Calamba to Bicol, New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam, and Chico Dam, among many others.

Bilateral meetings with Xi, Premier Li Keqiang. On his last day in Beijing, Duterte will have expanded bilateral meetings with President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang. Developments on the 13 agreements signed by the Philippines and China is on the agenda. Duterte and Xi will also have a restricted or “4 eyes only” meeting where they are likely to discuss more sensitive issues.

Bilateral meeting with Mongolian Prime Minister. On Sunday, May 14, Duterte will have a meeting with Mongolian Prime Minister Jargatulygn Erdenebat to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Joint Communique. On Monday, May 15, at the end of the forum, the leaders will issue a joint communique about the Belt and Road Forum. Philippine Ambassador Chito Sta Romana said, “The basic point of the document is how to promote international economic cooperation, how to further enhance infrastructure connectivity.” The joint communique went through several rounds of discussion before the 29 countries reached a consensus on what it should contain. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.