MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the Philippines before noon on Tuesday, November 20, for a two-day state visit that is expected to include the signing of a controversial framework for the joint exploration of the South China Sea.
Xi’s plane landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 at 11:27 am on Tuesday, and Xi exited his aircraft at 11:54 am.
Xi was welcomed by Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana, and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
Xi is the first Chinese president to make a state visit to the Philippines in 13 years, after then president Hu Jintao in 2005, under the Arroyo administration.
“Our relations have now seen a rainbow after the rain,” Xi said in a statement Monday, November 19, referring to what China calls a “turnaround” in Philippines-China relations after President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016.
Xi Jinping’s visit matters to Filipinos because of two major issues at stake:
- The future of the West Philippine Sea – particularly the planned signing of a joint exploration framework, which critics allege is unconstitutional
- Warnings about the Philippines falling into a “debt trap” due to loans and grants offered by China, the expected subject of deals also to be signed during Xi’s visit
Xi makes this trip as China redeems itself after losing the international case filed by the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and as China slugs it out with the US for dominance in the Asia-Pacific (or what the US now calls the Indo-Pacific).
The visit also comes as the Philippines redefines its foreign policy, with Duterte vowing to move away from Washington (despite his men doing otherwise on the ground), and with Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr now classifying countries into 3: “friends,” “enemies,” and “false friends.”
Follow Rappler’s special coverage of Xi’s state visit to the Philippines. – Rappler.com