Leaders of China, Philippines vow to boost bilateral ties


Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, yesterday left no room for doubt about where his allegiance lies as he commenced his State Visit to China, announcing what he calls his country's military and economic separation from the United States. He said that "America has lost now" and suggested that he was also eager to cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russian Federation to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines and Russian Federation". As Trinh Nguyen, Asia-Pacific economist at investment bank Natixis told CNBC, "The Philippines depends on the USA not just for military cooperation but also for economic support. It's the only way", he added.

"Both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relationship", Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters.

But now Duterte is taking a different tack, pushing that issue to the background as he tries to forge closer ties with China.

Richard Javad Heydarian, a political analyst, said by declaring a strong alliance with China, Duterte is going against the Filipino people's inclination towards the US.

China and the Philippines will sign $13.5 billion in deals this week, Mr. Duterte's trade secretary, Ramon M. Lopez, disclosed at a business forum in Beijing on Thursday.

Russia, the Philippines, and China have all adapted revisionist stances towards the global order and have sought a return to relevance.

"It's the only way", Mr Duterte told his Beijing audience.

Duterte's apparent cozying up to Beijing has both Tokyo and Washington anxious that the commitment under former Philippine President Benigno Aquino to stand up to China in the hotly disputed waterway is under threat. "Lastly this signifies that traditional friendly ties have been fully restored", Liu said.

"The United States is still an ally, it's there, it's in the MDT [Mutual Defense Treaty]".

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Duterte's visit to Beijing capped a series of recent declarations blasting the U.S. and President Barack Obama.

It's unclear how Duterte's latest statement could alter ties with the United States. Among 13 agreements signed following Xi's talks with Duterte was a memorandum of understanding on a list of transportation infrastructure cooperation projects under consideration, along with on financing cooperation between China's Export-Import Bank and the Philippine Treasury Department.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has hailed a warming of relations with China as "springtime" as he thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his country's hospitality and said relations between the countries go back centuries.

Portraying himself as an active student of geopolitics, Duterte said that as president, "I have now the proper perspective to judge whether the foreign policy is good for us or not".

He said the Philippines was "breaking being too much dependent on one side".

Wrangling over territory in the South China Sea, where neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims, has consumed China-Philippines relations in recent years.

The Philippines says China's president has committed more than $9 billion in low-interest loans to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation in his meeting with the Philippine leader who has set aside territorial disputes in a bid for Beijing's help.

Duterte has huge popularity ratings in the Philippines but his tilt away from Washington may not be supported by most Filipinos.

Despite Duterte's comments, Kirby said the US would not be opposed to the Philippines and China having a closer relationship. He also looked forward to the doubling or even quadrupling of Chinese tourist numbers from the current 500,000 a year "once the doors open up". China has dismissed the Hague ruling as a "scrap of paper" and has courted Duterte in hopes of resolving the disputes through bilateral talks.