APEC sidelines: PH tackles economic, military ties with China, Russia

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 November) – President Rodrigo R. Duterte discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin ways to broaden the Philippines’ economic and military relations with the two countries.

Duterte held separate meetings with the two leaders at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in Lima, Peru from November 19 to 20.

In his arrival message at the F. Bangoy International late evening on Wednesday, Duterte said he and Xi agreed to to establish coordinating mechanisms to ensure timely follow-up of the agreements made during his state visit to China on Oct. 18-21.

The visit led to the signing of 13 major agreements on infrastructure, bilateral trade, agriculture, drug control, among others.

China has pledged for the first time to offer official development assistance to the Philippines, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

Duterte added that in his engagements with foreign and business leaders, he stressed the economic and fiscal reforms the country has undertaken to “make it the world’s top investment destination of choice.”

“The Philippines is on track with unparalleled trajectory of growth. Let’s work hard together to sustain if not surpass what the Philippines has so far achieved to improve the ease of doing business, suppress drugs and criminality, and eliminate corruption,” he said.

Russia visit

In his meeting with Putin, Duterte said he welcomed the latter’s invitation to visit Russia.

He said Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will make advance visits “to firm up the substantive agenda with Moscow.”

Duterte earlier threatened to follow Russia’s move to leave the International Criminal Court if the international community continued to criticize him for the alleged state-sanctioned killings that are being linked to the war on drugs.

He added the country would join Russia if it decided to create a “new order”.

ICC, a 124-member intergovernmental organization and tribunal based in The Hague in the Netherlands, holds jurisdiction over cases of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity.

“The court is participating in a global fight to end impunity, and through international criminal justice, the Court aims to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening again,” the ICC website stated.

Foreign policy shift?

Duterte has shown openness to forging broader cooperation with China and Russia in the economy and other fields. On the other hand, he has displayed resentment toward the United States, even throwing expletives at President Barack Obama in some of his public statements.

Duterte said he wanted a stop to joint military exercises between the US and Philippine armed forces under the Visiting Forces Agreement, and told American troops in Mindanao to leave.

His officials, however, clarified that the country was not abandoning its alliance with the US.

American and Philippine troops usually held their exercises in areas near the West Philippine Sea, over which both the Philippines and China have claimed sovereignty.

In July this year, the Permanent Arbitral Tribunal of the UN ruled that the disputed islets in the West Philippine Sea belong to the Philippines. China, however, had snubbed the case filed by the Philippines from the start.

During Duterte’s visit to China, he and Xi said in a joint statement that they acknowledge the centuries-old bonds of friendship between their countries.

“Both sides agree that since the establishment of diplomatic relations, Philippines-China relations have enjoyed smooth development and remarkable progress in many areas of cooperation which have benefited both countries and peoples,” the statement read.

They also commit to “further enrich Philippines-China bilateral relations, founded on mutual respect, sincerity, equality and mutual benefit, which is conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity.”

“Both sides acknowledge the great importance of maintaining high-level exchanges in promoting the all-around development of bilateral relations,” it stated. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)