Published: Tue, November 20, 2018

Xi Jinping visits Philippines as China, US wrangle for supremacy

Xi Jinping visits Philippines as China, US wrangle for supremacy

The Palace on Monday said it hopes to forge a better cooperation, a more powerful alliance, and closer bonds with China as the Duterte administration rolls out the red carpet for the two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. More than 300 protesters with placards that read "Philippines not for sale" and "Hands off our land and seas" rallied in front of the Chinese Consulate in Manila.

The Philippines' provocative president, Rodrigo Duterte, was courting controversy again this week, asserting casually on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore that China was already in possession of the entire South China Sea.

China is now considered a top trading partner of the Philippines, a leading export market for the Philippines, and one of the largest tourist origins to the Philippines, Panelo had noted, even as analysis showed that Duterte's move to improve ties with Beijing has produced a small dividend in terms of infrastructure investment so far.

Duterte has refused to immediately demand Chinese compliance to the landmark ruling, which invalidated China's sweeping claims to the waters, where Beijing has transformed a string of disputed reefs into missile-protected island bases.

Xi said he is convinced the visit will cement the traditional friendship, deepen the mutually beneficial cooperation and enhance the joint efforts of China and the Philippines for common development.

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.

Philippine social media flooded with anti Xi memes

Beijing's relations with Manila stagnated over long-seething territorial rifts in the South China Sea until Duterte won the presidency in mid-2016 and rebuilt ties with China while often pillorying USA security policies in a dramatic pivot. Both Xi and Duterte have often been in the crosshairs of human rights groups.

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves upon his arrival in Manila, the Philippines, Nov. 20, 2018.

The two nations also signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on Beijing's vast trade and infrastructure strategy, the "Belt and Road Initiative", and agreed to boost ties. Xi will then have a photo opportunity with leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community then depart Manila for China from NAIA Terminal 1.

The Philippines, which relies heavily on energy imports is racing against time to develop oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, but to do that needs foreign help, which China has offered.

"The President has different tact in solving the problems confronting us". He hasn't challenged Chinese assertions that it controls the majority of the disputed South China Sea - a stance he once opposed.

"During the State Visit, the two Leaders will exchange views on areas of mutual concern and chart the course for the future of Philippines-China bilateral relations", Panelo said.

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