MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte intends to make good on his promise to visit China with a trip planned from October 18 to 21.
This was confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a press release sent on Wednesday, October 12.
Duterte's trip, according to the DFA, will be a state visit which differs from official visits and working visits in that it involves more ceremonial activities, including military honors and a state banquet.
Expenses are also shouldered by the host country in a state visit.
Before visiting China, Duterte will be in Brunei from October 16 to 18. The President was supposed to travel to this Southeast Asian country from September 4 to 5. He was forced to postpone the trip, however, after the deadly Davao City bombing which took place the night before his departure.
After his trip to China, Duterte is set to visit Japan from October 25 to 27.
The DFA previously said Duterte would visit China by the end of 2016, following the President's pronouncements that he wanted to enter into bilateral talks with the Asian giant.
Two months ago, Duterte sent former president Fidel Ramos as his envoy to begin "icebreaker talks" with Chinese representatives in Hong Kong.
The initial talks led to Ramos extending the Philippines' invitation to China to begin formal talks with one another. The Chinese representatives reciprocated, inviting Ramos to Beijing.
Duterte has said that, when he comes face-to-face with Chinese officials, he will ask China to "give back" the fishing rights of Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The President said last Monday, October 10, however, that he would not dwell on the issue of Scarborough Shoal.
"Huwag na muna natin pakialaman 'yang Scarborough [Shoal] kasi hindi natin kaya eh. Magalit man tayo, hangin lang. 'Di natin kaya," said Duterte.
(Let's not dwell on Scarborough Shoal because we don't have the capabilities. Even if we express anger, it will just amount to nothing. We can't back it up.)
China continues to claim 90% of the sea as its exclusive economic zone despite an international court ruling that rejects this claim.
Will Duterte bring up this historic Hague ruling that favors the Philippines' claim?
Duterte has said China "cannot avoid" the ruling but has indicated he is waiting for the "proper time" to bring it up.
Beijing rejects the ruling and has said it will not participate in bilateral talks that use the ruling as basis.
The Duterte administration is eyeing "two-track" talks with China that would allow the two countries to cooperate in some areas while separately handling "contentious issues" such as the maritime dispute.
The shaping up of Duterte's China trip comes amid his recent remarks that he may break ties with US in favor of stronger ties with China.
The visit will be his 5th foreign trip in the span of two months. – With a report from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com
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.