Duterte, Chinese vice premier affirm PH-China ties

Pia Ranada

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Duterte, Chinese vice premier affirm PH-China ties
The two officials affirm their countries' commitment to previously signed deals but leave out any discussion on China's interest in Benham Rise

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte met with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang on Friday, March 17, to reaffirm commitments made during his state visit to China last year.

The two also agreed on the “peaceful settlement of disputes,” and discussed terrorism and economic cooperation.

Wang is among several Chinese officials who met with President Duterte after his state visit to China in October. Last March 7, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan paid Duterte a courtesy call. Two months before, in January, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin visited him.

Affirming the strengthened ties between the Philippines and China brought about by the state visit was among the major reasons for Wang’s visit.

“Wang Yang reiterated commitment to follow through with agreements made during the President’s visit to Beijing, including in PPP (Public-Private Partnership), trade, and investment,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement sent on Friday.

The Chinese official discussed with Duterte the Six-Year Development Program (SYPD) for Trade and Economic Cooperation between China and the Philippines, which was signed on Thursday by National Economic Development Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia and Fu Ziying, China’s International Trade Representative and Vice Minister of Commerce.

Wang Yang, said Abella, said the signing of the development program “demonstrates sincerity of China which he hoped will result in concrete outcomes.”

Duterte brought up his concerns on terrorism and piracy and the effect these might have on stability and commerce in Southeast Asia and other nearby regions.

Cabinet officials present at the meeting could not confirm if the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute was discussed, but Malacañang said the two officials had “reaffirmed the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes.”

On the same day as his meeting with Wang, Duterte met with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. The two discussed the maritime dispute.

Despite recent news of China’s interest in Benham Rise, a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau (larger than the island of Luzon) said to be rich in natural gas and minerals, the issue was not discussed by Duterte and Wang, Pernia told Rappler. (READ: FAST FACTS: What you should know about Benham Rise)

Concerns over China’s interest in Benham Rise surfaced after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said a Chinese survey ship had been spotted plying the area for 3 months last year. (READ: Duterte shows alarming confusion over Benham Rise)

Responding to Lorenzana’s concerns, China said the Philippines cannot claim Benham Rise to be its own territory.

China said it was “exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only, without conducting any other activities or operations.” – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.