MANILA, Philippines – Before departing for China to attend the Boao Forum for Asia, President Rodrigo Duterte declared he "needs" Beijing to back his administration's priority programs.
"I would say, I need China more than anybody else at this time of our national life. I need China. I will not say something which is not good," he said on Monday, April 9.
Duterte is set to speak at the Boao Forum's plenary session, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, on Tuesday, April 10. The two leaders will have a bilateral meeting afterwards before Duterte flies to Hong Kong.
The Philippine President called China an "important ingredient" in his administration's Build, Build, Build infrastructure program and in the rehabilitation of Marawi City after the 5-month terrorist siege.
He said the Asian giant is set to donate another P500 million for reconstruction efforts.
Duterte even asked a Chinese reporter at the Monday press conference to relay warm words to Xi.
"I just simply love Xi Jinping. He understands my problem and is willing to help. I'd like to say, thank you China. Please carry the message," he said. (READ: Duterte jokes: Why not make Philippines a province of China?)
Not bringing up reclamation
Asked by a Filipino reporter if he would raise reclamation activities in Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea with China's leaders, Duterte said he would not.
"No, I will just thank them and say thank you for issuing that statement. It's a word of honor for us," he said, referring to China's assurance to him that Beijing will not conduct reclamation in any other feature in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte is confident that China will not renege on its supposed promise.
"I'm sure China will not want to lose our friendship and our goodwill," he said.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.