Arroyo backs Duterte: PH friendship with China ‘just right’

Mara Cepeda

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Arroyo backs Duterte: PH friendship with China ‘just right’

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'Hindi ba karapat-dapat lamang na maging kaibigan natin ang China?' says Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to strengthen ties with China, saying the Philippines’ friendship with the Asian economic giant is “just right.”

The former president, now Pampanga 2nd District Representative, made the statement when asked if she agreed with Duterte’s “independent foreign policy” in an interview on GMA 7’s Unang Hirit uploaded on Youtube on Monday, August 20. 

‘Di ba karapat-dapat lamang na maging kaibigan natin ang China (Isn’t it just right that we’re friends with China)?” said Arroyo, whose 9-year presidency marked by closer Philippines ties with China and controversies involving government deals with Chinese state-owned firms.

The former Philippine chief cited China’s economic reforms that has turned it into an economic giant in the region.

Mula noon hanggang ngayon, umangat ang China from a third world country to the second richest country in the world. At dahil mas mabilis ang pagsulong ng ekonomiya ng China kaysa ekonomiya ng Amerika, eh baka hindi tatagal, sabi ng mga eksperto, magiging number one economy ang China sa buong mundo,” said Arroyo.

(From then to now, China rose from being a third world country to becoming the second richest country in the world. Experts have said that since China’s economy is growing faster than America, maybe it won’t be long before China becomes tthe number one economy in the world.) 

Like Duterte, Arroyo supported a joint undertaking with Chine in the West Philippine Sea. During her term, the Philippines entered into the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China and Vietnam, where the 3 countries agreed to conduct a joint seismic study in the West Philippine Sea.

Arroyo critics alleged that she committed “treason” in allowing the JMSU, which expired in 2008. That same year, a petition was filed asking the Supreme Court to  void the JMSU, evern after it had lapsed, to prevent a repetition of a similar agreement in the future.  (READ: Duterte admin revives Arroyo policies, controversies)

Because of the JMSU, Arroyo was seen as “considerably more receptive” to Beijing’s commercial incentives and was “apparently willing to compromise” the country’s claims, according to an International Crisis Group report. (READ: Why China prefers Arroyo over Aquino)

On April 11, Arroyo was elected member of the board of directors of the Boao Forum for Asia held in Hainan, China. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.