Philippines rolls out red carpet for China leader

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Xi Jinping sealed a raft of deals Tuesday during a trip to Manila as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's administration shrugs off USA warnings about accepting Chinese cash.

Malacañang said President Xi's visit to the Philippines is a "turning point" in both countries' histories, as this is his first state visit to the country and the first of its kind by a Chinese leader since 2005, reciprocating President Duterte's earlier visit to China.

The dispute over the resource-rich South China Sea, a key transit route for billions in trade, led to a freeze in Manila-Beijing relations, which thawed with Duterte's pivot.

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.

They also protested against the reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea, including Philippine waters.

"I commend President Duterte for his leadership under which the people of this country have actively searched for, and found, a development path in sync with the trend of the times and the Philippines' reality and have created a bright prospect of economic and social development", he added.

"We must take his statement with a grain of salt - of course the USA would not want the whole world to be dependent on China", Philippine Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said at a forum in Manila on Monday.

Indeed, much of the money that China has previously pledged has yet to come through.

More news: Apec summit: Mike Pence warns of China's ‘constricting belt’ and ‘one-way road’

Gregory Wyatt, director for business intelligence at PSA Philippines Consultancy, said big projects face many barriers in the Philippines, like right of way issues, regulatory approvals and political dissent. While Western governments have sharply criticized Duterte's brutal crackdown against illegal drugs, China has not.

Opposition senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Pangilinan said China drafted the deal, which they said would violate the Philippine Constitution.

The proposed oil exploration deal between the Philippines and China is among the agreements being considered for signing.

"The Philippines is preparing very hard for this historic meeting between the President of the Philippines and the President of China". The costs of the deals with Beijing are "really reasonable or better than the others", he said.

Filipino analyst Richard Heydarian said China's pledges induced Manila to "soft-pedal" on the South China Sea issue, but Beijing failed to hold up its end of the bargain.

"Indeed, amity solves worldwide disputes and even forges a more powerful alliance between both countries against threats to security, including terrorism, violent extremism, criminality and the drug menace", Panelo said.

"There's friction between China and Western nations", Duterte said last week, noting that the Philippines doesn't want to see any miscalculation.

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