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From Abe to Xi: Comparing leaders' PH visits under Duterte

RED CARPET WELCOME. President Rodrigo Duterte has hosted 5 leaders. All Malacau00f1ang photos

RED CARPET WELCOME. President Rodrigo Duterte has hosted 5 leaders.

All Malacau00f1ang photos

MANILA, Philippines – For two days this week, President Rodrigo Duterte hosted state guest Chinese President Xi Jinping whom he called his “good friend.”

But before Xi's state visit, Duterte had welcomed 4 other leaders to the Philippines, excluding those who were just in town to attend an international summit.

Here are the types of visits to the Philippines made thus far by leaders, with Duterte as president:

A state visit is the highest level of visit a country can host for a foreign head of state or government. According to the Official Gazette, it means the visiting leader can bring a delegation of 8 to 10 persons. Arrival ceremonies are elaborate, with a review of honor guards, full military honors, and signing of the Malacañang guestbook. A state luncheon or state dinner is held and the two leaders exchange gifts.

In an official visit, the delegation is usually smaller and arrival ceremonies are not as detailed. A state luncheon or state dinner may or may not be held.  

In both state visit and official visit, the Philippine government shoulders the expenses of the foreign leader.

So far, 3 leaders have gone on a state visit to the Philippines under the Duterte administration, beginning with Brunei’s Sultan Bolkiah, Indonesia’s Widodo, and Xi. Two had official visits – Papua New Guinea’s O’Neill and Japan’s Abe.

How does Xi’s state visit compare to these visits in other aspects?

No visit to Davao City

WHEN IN DAVAO. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eats durian with President Rodrigo Duterte after attending various events at the Waterfront Hotel in Davao City on January 13, 2017. Malacau00f1ang photo

WHEN IN DAVAO. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eats durian with President Rodrigo Duterte after attending various events at the Waterfront Hotel in Davao City on January 13, 2017.

Malacau00f1ang photo

Duterte had invited Xi to visit his hometown, but for reasons unknown, the Chinese president didn’t fit it into his schedule. Two leaders have flown to Davao City during their visits. 

Prime Minister Abe, the first foreign leader to visit Duterte during his presidency, became the highest-ranking Japanese official to fly to Davao City which has a thriving Filipino-Japanese community. Abe and First Lady Akie even got to eat breakfast in Duterte’s house and visit historic landmarks in the southern city. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who, like Duterte, was a local official before becoming president, went to Davao City to launch with the Philippine leader a new ferry service linking Mindanao to Indonesia.

Xi spent his second day in the Philippines meeting with prominent members of the Filipino-Chinese community and with Congress leaders like Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto II. 

Number of deals signed

DEALS. President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesia President Joko Widodo witness the signing of the joint declaration on a new shipping route between Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Indonesia Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi. Malacau00f1ang photo

DEALS. President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesia President Joko Widodo witness the signing of the joint declaration on a new shipping route between Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Indonesia Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi.

Malacau00f1ang photo

Xi’s visit outshines the others in terms of the number of deals signed. A total of 29 deals were signed and exchanged – including a memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development, and a loan agreement for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam.

Abe’s official visit comes next with 5 agreements signed, including notes on a $5.2-million Japanese grant for high-speed boats and counter-terrorism equipment. For Bolkiah’s visit, two deals  were signed related to cultural cooperation and development of halal products. Two deals were also signed when Widodo came over – a deal on agriculture cooperation and the roll-on roll-off ferry system.

One document was signed during O’Neill’s visit – a joint declaration on agricultural cooperation with Papua New Guinea. 

Road closures, class suspensions

SECURITY MEASURES. Roads are closed, thousands of police personnel deployed for the state visit of President Xi Jinping. Photo by Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler

SECURITY MEASURES. Roads are closed, thousands of police personnel deployed for the state visit of President Xi Jinping.

Photo by Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler

Only Xi’s visit merited road closures, some unannounced, and city-wide class suspensions. While there were also road closures, rerouting schemes, and work and class suspensions during Bolkiah’s and Widodo’s visits, these were mostly because of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit being held around the same time.

Flag used in welcome ceremony

ADJUSTMENT. The Chinese flag is used in place of the Philippine presidential flag during the welcome ceremony. Malacau00f1ang Photo

ADJUSTMENT. The Chinese flag is used in place of the Philippine presidential flag during the welcome ceremony.

Malacau00f1ang Photo

Malacañang allowed the use of the visiting country’s flag only during the welcome ceremony for Xi. As Xi and Duterte reviewed the honor guards, a Chinese flag trailed them.

In the welcome ceremonies for the other 4 leaders, only the Philippine presidential flag was used. This is consistent with tradition in which the presidential flag symbolizes the supremacy of the Philippine President, the host, in the affair.

Responding to concerns that the choice of flag in the Xi visit was too much of a concession for China, Malacañang said Chief of Protocol Robert Borje would issue a statement. However, as of writing, no such statement has been released. 

Duterte's 'First Lady'

FIRST LADY ROLE. Honeylet Avanceu00f1a is President Rodrigo Duterte's companion during the state banquet for Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Malacau00f1ang photo

FIRST LADY ROLE. Honeylet Avanceu00f1a is President Rodrigo Duterte's companion during the state banquet for Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Malacau00f1ang photo

Xi's visit was also the first time Duterte's eldest daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte functioned as his "First Lady." Sara was Duterte's companion in welcoming Xi in Malacañang. 

However, come state banquet, it was Duterte's longtime parter Honeylet Avanceña who assumed the functions of a First Lady, sitting beside him at the presidential table.

It was also Avanceña who was the President's companion during the visits of Widodo, Bolkiah, and Abe. When the Japanese leader flew to Davao City, it was Avanceña who toured First Lady Akie Abe around Japanese memorial sites.

Mayor Sara Duterte could not be present at Abe's Davao City events as she had been advised to take extra precautions for her sensitive pregnancy.

Did you spot other differences among the visits by foreign leaders? Share them with us by commenting below! – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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