Duterte and Xi tackle drugs, Marawi, infrastructure

MANILA, Philippines – The fight against illegal drugs, the rehabilitation of conflict-stricken Marawi City, and infrastructure were among the topics discussed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting Tuesday, November 20. 

In a joint press conference with Xi, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said, "We tackled infrastructure development, particularly China's participation in projects under our Build, Build, Build program, which aims to bring about a Golden Age of Infrastructure in our country."

"We also discussed our cooperation on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi, and the Philippines' participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)," said Duterte.

The BRI refers to China's revival of an ancient trading route so that it can link Asian markets with economic circles in Europe. A memorandum of understanding on the BRI was signed on Tuesday. (READ: FAST FACTS: China's Belt and Road Initiative

"We discussed mutual concerns on defense, security, maritime cooperation, law enforcement, transnational crime, as well as strengthening our partnership in combatting the trafficking of illegal drugs," said Duterte.

China is a source of illegal drugs in the Philippines, but Duterte, who is waging an anti-drug campaign, earlier said the Chinese should not immediately be blamed for the presence of illegal drugs in the country. 

Duterte continued on Tuesday, "We touched on cooperation in enhancing two-way tourism, agriculture, education, science and technology, and cultural exchanges." 

China scholarships, rice donations

In his own remarks, Xi said he and Duterte decided to "elevate" their countries' ties to a "comprehensive strategic cooperation" even as they "continue to manage contentious issues" in the West Philippine Sea. 

Xi promised that China "will continue to do its modest best to help and support the Philippines."

"Our support will come in many forms, from lending a hand to your counternarcotics and counterterrorism struggle, to helping to repair roads and bridges in Marawi and build new infrastructure there," Xi said.

"China will import more goods in this country and Philippine coconut, and the frozen fruits, have been approved for export to China. China will provide another 50 government scholarship grants for Philippine students on annual basis, from 2019 to 2021. And will implement arrangements for Filipino teachers of the English language to work in China," the Chinese president also said.

He added that China "will donate 10,000 tons of rice to help those communities devastated by Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut)."

Xi's two-day state visit to the Philippines continues on Wednesday, November 21, with meetings with House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and a photo opportunity with leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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