Duterte wishes success for South China Sea talks as he meets Xi, Li

BEIJING, China – In both his bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made early mention of his hope for successful first talks on the South China Sea dispute between their two countries.

"I am pleased that we have established a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea. This is one step towards peacefully engaging disputes and I hope that the inaugural meeting ... on May 19th will be a success," Duterte told Xi during their meeting on Monday, May 15.

Before their meeting, the Philippine President met Premier Li in another room of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

"We should use this mechanism fully to dialogue openly, monitor progress made, and to ensure that projects are implemented," Duterte told Li.

The first bilateral talks between the Philippines and China on the maritime dispute during the Duterte administration will take place later this week in southwestern China.

This is likely why Duterte made early mention of the historic talks, bringing it up right after congratulating the two leaders on the recently concluded Belt and Road Forum and thanking them for the hospitality shown his delegation.

During that first meeting, Chinese and Filipino foreign affairs officials aim to lay down an agenda to serve as a guide for future talks.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta Romana earlier said talks of the bilateral consultation mechanism will take place twice a year.

After their expanded bilateral meeting, Duterte and Xi had a restricted meeting where they likely discussed more sensitive issues.

Duterte is set to leave Beijing late Monday night to proceed to his hometown of Davao City. – 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.