BEIJING, China – President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China was successful in restoring the “friendship” between the Philippines and China, according to the Chinese government.
“The visit signifies the full recovery of China, the Philippines’ friendship back to the normal level,” said Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Thursday, October 20.
Liu gave the statement after bilateral talks between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping and the signing of 13 bilateral cooperation documents.
Duterte’s 4-day visit, he said, “marks the new stage of the practical cooperation between the two countries.” (READ: China commits $9B in 'soft loans' for PH drug rehab, dev't projects)
Liu also mentioned the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute, what has long been a thorn in Philippines-China relations.
“A new page is now open between the two countries in addressing the South China Sea issue through bilateral consultations,” he said. (READ: DOCUMENT: PH-China joint statement during Duterte state visit)
Xi and Duterte had earlier agreed to pursue bilateral talks on the maritime dispute. One of the documents signed was for cooperation between the two countries’ coast guards.
‘Springtime’ of relationship
Earlier that day, Duterte and Xi read out their messages to each other during an expanded bilateral meeting that included Chinese ministers and Filipino Cabinet members.
Xi expressed his hope for his country and the Philippines to renew their friendship.
"I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things," Xi said, according to a translation in a Reuters report.
Duterte also spoke of the centuries-old ties between their two nations. He said the roots of these bonds “are very deep and not easily severed.”
The Philippine President turned to metaphor to describe his optimism about Philippines-China ties.
“Even as we arrived in Beijing close to winter, this is a springtime of our relationship,” he said.
After the expanded bilateral meetings that involved other officials, Duterte and Xi went inside a room for “confidential” one-on-one talks. They were accompanied only by translators, said former congressman Arthur Yap who is part of the Philippine delegation.
Yap said Xi and Duterte went overtime in their confidential talks.
“They were allotted a certain number of minutes but they went more than that, double that time. They took more than half an hour. Original plan was maybe just 15 minutes,” he said.
Grand welcome for Duterte
The Chinese government seemed to have spared no effort in giving Duterte a grand welcome.
Watch the welcome ceremony for Duterte below:
That morning, the red carpet was rolled out for Duterte. In a welcome ceremony held at the East Plaza of the Great Hall of the People, he was treated to full military honors with a marching band.
Xi welcomed Duterte and as the two officials walked down the red carpet, they were cheered on by young Chinese students holding flowers and the Philippine and Chinese flags.
That night, Xi hosted a state banquet for Duterte and members of the Philippine delegation. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.