April 25, 2019
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has flown to China to attend the second forum on Beijing’s Belt and Road development initiative.
Duterte left Villamor Airbase in Pasay City at 3:35 p.m. on Wednesday and will return on Sunday.
Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had designated Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea as officer in charge for the duration of the China trip.
This is the fourth trip of Duterte to China since taking oath as president in 2016.
A Palace statement said Duterte’s participation in the Belt and Road forum “reaffirms the Philippines’ commitment to work with partners in the region to further enhance regional connectivity and economic integration in order to advance the country’s development agenda and sustain regional growth and development.”
“The President, together with over 35 leaders and heads of international organizations, will discuss, among others, how to boost connectivity, further strengthen policy synergy and build closer partnerships, and promote green and sustainable development,” the statement read.
On Monday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said Chinese President Xi Jinping had invited Duterte and 39 other leaders for the forum.
“The forum is an opportunity for the Philippines to explore synergies on connectivity initiatives. This includes projects under the [Belt and Road Initiative,] and the country’s Build, Build, Build and other development programs,” it added.
Duterte is set to meet Xi and Premier Li Keqiang to discuss key developments in bilateral relations and regional affairs. Li will host dinner for Duterte after the meeting.
“The President is one of select leaders who will meet President Xi and Premier Li separately and will be honored with a dinner,” the Foreign Affairs department said.
Duterte will also meet Filipino and Chinese business leaders to explore ways to further enhance trade and investments.
Montealegre earlier said Duterte would attend parallel thematic subforums and an executive conference on Thursday. The next day, he will attend the forum’s opening session, as well as a high-level meeting.
Duterte will be one of the lead speakers at the Leaders’ Roundtable on Saturday.
Malacañang had said the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute might be raised by Duterte with Xi, after China ramped up its activities in the disputed waters in the past month.
Chinese vessels have been surrounding Pag-asa (Thitu) and Kota (Loaita) Islands in the Kalayaan (Spratly) Island Group since January. A Chinese ship was also seen harvesting giant clams at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
The Foreign Affairs department has filed a number of diplomatic protests against China’s actions.
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