LOOK: New China envoy meets high-level Philippine officials

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – New Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian has had a packed schedule, meeting several high-level Philippine officials soon after his arrival in Manila.

In a series of photos posted by the Chinese embassy on Monday, December 16, Huang is shown in back-to-back courtesy calls with several Cabinet officials as well as Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Among the Cabinet members Huang met were Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

Huang also had meetings with prominent members of the Filipino-Chinese community, including taipan Lucio Tan. A welcome dinner hosted by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo capped off the busy week.

Huang arrived in the Philippines last December 3. He takes over from former Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, who enjoyed close ties with the Duterte administration. Zhao ended his 5-year tour of duty in October this year.

Huang faces the task of sustaining China's warm ties with the Philippines in the latter half of President Rodrigo Duterte's presidency. The Duterte administration has been criticized for downplaying a decades-long maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in exchange for loans and grants from Beijing.

The meetings took place after Huang presented his credentials to Duterte at Malacañang and met with Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr last December 4. See photos of Huang's other meetings below.

December 10

Huang meets with Panelo and Andanar. A few days earlier, on December 6, Huang also delivered a speech during a briefing of the Communist Party of China, which was attended by key members of the Philippines' ruling PDP-Laban.

December 11

Huang meets with Cusi at the Department of Energy headquarters. The Philippines and China are in talks to implement an oil and gas deal in the West Philippine Sea.

December 12

Huang meets with Dominguez at the Department of Finance. Under the Duterte administration, China has become one of the Philippines' largest sources of foreign investments and aid, with as much as $398 million in grants and $273 million in soft loans given as of 2018.

China earlier said the Philippines can also expect some $421 million more in grants to be provided from 2019 to 2022 and "more than a dozen" flagship infrastructure projects to be completed in the "next few years." (IN CHARTS: Don't credit China for Philippine growth just yet)

Huang also meets with Philippine Airlines chairman and chief executive officer Lucio Tan.

December 13

Arroyo and her family host a welcome dinner for Huang. Like Duterte, Arroyo fostered closer ties with China compared to her successor, former president Benigno Aquino III, whose administration saw the Philippines file its historic maritime case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

December 20

Huang meets with Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II. Beijing-run China Telecommunications is currently teaming up with Philippine businessman Dennis Uy's Udenna Corporation and Chelsea Logistics to develop and operate the country's 3rd major telecommunications provider.

Huang also meets with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Noel Clement at the AFP headquarters.

The meeting takes place as the Philippine military opens up its bases to Chinese presence through the installation of a telecommunication company's cell sites. Experts have warned the deal leaves Philippine security forces vulnerable to spying.

– Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.