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Duterte meets Xi to build bridges with China

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Duterte meet Xi

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Aug 29, their eighth meeting in three years in what Manila’s top envoy in Beijing described as a high-stakes meeting with the intent “to build bridges, not to burn”.

The two men met at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

It did not mention whether Philippine President had raised the 2016 ruling by a Hague arbitration tribunal, which invalidated China’s claim over most of the South China Sea, as he had pledged. 

Mr Xi said that the two countries should work to promote the early realization of the South China Sea code of conduct by 2021 or earlier.

“I am willing to work with you to continue to grasp the good times and the momentum from a strategic and long-term perspective and lead the development of Sino-Philippine relations.”

The development of bilateral relations is “not only beneficial to the two countries and (our) peoples but also adds positive energy to regional peace and stability,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Santo Romana told reporters Mr Duterte spent the first three years of his term building “a reservoir of goodwill and friendship” with Mr Xi and China.

But he “decided that it’s time to include in the diplomatic agenda… sensitive issues that may have caused misunderstanding if it were brought up in the past”, the ambassador said, referring to The Hague ruling.

China has called on the Philippines to ban online gambling, but Mr Santo Romana said if the issue came up during the leaders’ meeting, Philippines President would stand his ground.

Beijing cannot “dictate” to Manila to ban all online gambling because it is legal in the Philippines and is “our sovereign decision”.

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