Duterte joins Belt and Road talks with 28 other leaders

Pia Ranada
The Philippine leader introduces his administration's ambitious infrastructure plan and stresses the need to fight illegal drugs

READY TO CONTRIBUTE. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte participates in two leaders' roundtable summits during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China. Malacañang photo

BEIJING, China – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte joined world leaders like Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in talks about the Belt and Road Initiative.

Duterte gave two speeches during leaders’ roundtable summits on Monday, May 15, the last day of the Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation.

The summits, which involved 29 heads of state and government, took place at the Yanqi Lake International Convention Center on the outskirts of Beijing.

The leaders “exchanged views on different aspects of connectivity, trade, investment, and infrastructure, financing and synergies with national and development priorities,” said the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday.

During the morning summit, Duterte introduced his administration’s infrastructure plan, “Build, Build, Build,” which will see the government spending billions of pesos on transportation infrastructure.

He explained how the Philippines’ plan dovetails with the Belt and Road Initiative in which China vows to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into helping other countries fund infrastructure projects. This assistance, however, will come in the form of loans as well as grants.

“For the President, the Philippine approach can complement regional and international connectivity mechanisms, such as China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative, and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity,” said the DFA.

SUPPORTING CHINA'S INITIATIVE. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in time for the first session of the Leaders' Roundtable Summit. Malacañang photo

Duterte also voiced his hope to modernize the agriculture sector in the Philippines and to help Filipino farmers and agricultural exporters access bigger markets.

His favorite topic, the fight against illegal drugs, was also in his first speech.

“President Duterte also referred to enforcement of laws to address the illegal drug trade and stressed his determination to combat corruption,” said the DFA.

During the afternoon summit, the Philippine President talked about the benefits of clean, green, and sustainable infrastructure.

“President Duterte said that sustainability of infrastructure can guarantee quality of life and support human welfare and well-being,” said the DFA.

Road map

Chinese President Xi, during a press conference after his meetings with leaders, said the group had crafted a “road map” for the Belt and Road Initiative and identified infrastructure and reduction of trade barriers as priority areas for its projects.

“We agree that connectivity will remain a priority of our cooperation and we will endeavor to connect over land passages with sea ports and establish infrastructure networks of unimpeded land and sea routes,” said Xi.

There will be cooperation on “soft connectivity” through information-sharing, mutual recognition of regulation, mutual assistance in law enforcement, cooperation in customs and quality inspection, harmonization of rules and standards, he added.

Xi also announced that a second Belt and Road Forum will be held in 2019. – 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.