Xi leaves PH after historic two-day state visit

Leroy Wright
November 21, 2018

The local government of Manila has announced the suspension of classes and work in city government offices on Tuesday, Nov 20, for the official visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

More than 300 protesters with placards reading "Hands off our land and seas" rallied in front of the Chinese Consulate in Manila. "This would be his first state visit to the Philippines, and the first of its kind by a Chinese leader since 2005, reciprocating the state visit made earlier by our Chief Executive", Panelo said in a statement Monday.

Xi and Duterte witnessed the signing of 29 agreements between the Philippines and China, two nations that are locked in a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

Former President Benigno Aquino III's administration lodged the case after a standoff in the Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

But over two years later, only a trickle of funding has arrived, prompting critics to question whether Duterte has been duped into pivoting toward China and giving too much ground on the South China Sea dispute.

Duterte's rapprochement has fostered a new era of warming relations with the Asian economic powerhouse, with which he has sought trade and investment, infrastructure financing and weapons to fight insurgents.

But relations have been warmer since Donald Trump became USA president and dropped American criticism of Duterte´s anti-drug crackdown that has killed thousands. Both Xi and Duterte have often been in the crosshairs of human rights groups.

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The annual APEC summit brought together representatives of 21 nations that account for 60 percent of the world economy. A VIP terminal costing about $19 million was added to the city's airport.

The Chinese leader will also attend a wreath laying ceremony at the Jose Rizal monument in Luneta Park.

Villafuerte said the Philippines has already gained a head start in promoting deeper economic integration with China with President Duterte's move to rebalance the country's foreign policy towards Asia. Xi will then have a photo opportunity with leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community then depart Manila for China from NAIA Terminal 1.

The agreements include memoranda of understanding (MoU) on cooperation on oil and gas development; and cooperation on basic education, information and communications technology, and cultural exchange. "This vision charts a clear course for China-Philippines relations and sends a strong message to the world that our two countries are partners in seeking common development".

Filipino nationalists have warned that any agreement that can undermine the Philippines' internationally recognized exclusive rights to fish and exploit resources within a 200-nautical-mile stretch of waters from the country's coast would violate the Philippine constitution.

With joint efforts, the two sides have had fruitful cooperation in various fields and ushered in a new chapter in China-Philippines relations, benefiting both peoples and contributing to regional peace and stability, Xi said. Chinese officials have asked Washington to back off from what they say is a purely Asian dispute, but the US has vowed to maintain a presence in the waters, where it has no claims but has pledged to promote freedom of navigation and overflight.

"We will continue to fly and sail wherever global law allows and our national interests demand; harassment will only strengthen our resolve".

Xi said China supports the Philippines' role as the country coordinator for the China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) dialogue relations and the China-Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippine East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) cooperation.

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