China Premier's visit to Philippines is first in 10 years

NEW ERA. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is among the new team of leaders that President Xi Jinping introduced in October. AFP file photo

NEW ERA. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is among the new team of leaders that President Xi Jinping introduced in October.

AFP file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will go on a 5-day visit to the Philippines from November 12 to 16 to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits, followed by an official visit where various agreements are expected to be signed.

It would be the first time in over 10 years that a Chinese premier is visiting the country, after Wen Jiabao who attended the Second East Asia Summit in Cebu in January 2007.

It would also be the first foreign trip of Li since Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced him in October as part of a team of new leaders who will usher in a "new era" for China

"The Philippines is the destination of Premier Li Keqiang's first visit after the 19th CPC National Congress, which shows that China attaches great importance to China-Philippines relations," said China's Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiadong in a November 6 press briefing on Li's visit. 

Li's visit comes as the two countries celebrate warmer relations since the previous Aquino administration filed an international arbitration case against Beijing's aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (READ: Aquino legacy: Defying China)

President Rodrigo Duterte shelved a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that is in favor of the Philippines but is not recognized by China. Duterte is instead pursuing bilateral talks with Beijing despite concerns raised by the previous administration. 

Li's visit also comes after Duterte's expected meeting with Xi in Vietnam, where he said he would confront the Chinese leader about freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. There are no updates so far about this meeting. 

The two countries enjoy warm ties despite sticky issues in the disputed seas. In August, Duterte aborted plans to construct fishermen's shelter on one of the sandbars near Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island after China protested.

ASEAN Summit

Li is scheduled to arrive on Sunday, November 12, to attend 3 major ASEAN meetings – ASEAN-China, ASEAN-China-Japan-South Korea, and the 12th East Asia Summit. He will also attend the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to be held on the sidelines of the major meetings. 

Xiadong said Duterte himself, as this year's ASEAN chairman, invited Li to attend the ASEAN Summit. Duterte met Li for the first time in September 2016 during the ASEAN Summit in Laos.

Xiadong said Li will explain China's diplomatic policy toward neighboring countries in the spirit of the "new era" that Xi envisioned at the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress.

"He will also propose nearly 30 new initiatives to deepen practical cooperation under various mechanisms, covering such areas as connectivity, food security, poverty alleviation, tourism, and anti-corruption, which is expected to improve and upgrade China-ASEAN cooperation and elevate East Asia cooperation to a new level," he said.

Xiadong said China's relationship with the region is important especially as the ASEAN-China strategic partnership will reach its 15th year next year.

Official visit to PH

FIRST MEETING. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for the first time on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos in September 2016. Photo courtesy of Jesus Dureza

FIRST MEETING. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for the first time on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos in September 2016.

Photo courtesy of Jesus Dureza

Li will extend his trip for an official visit to the Philippines, where he will meet with Duterte and Congress leaders Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The two countries are expected to sign cooperation agreements on infrastructure, economy, trade, investment, and social, people-to-people, and cultural engagement.

"It is believed that the visit will vigorously advance bilateral relations in the new era and promote China-Philippines relations to become an important practice of building a new type of international relations as well as a community with a shared future for mankind," said Xiaodong. – Rappler.com