MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a meeting ahead of the Belt and Road Forum in China, with the Philippine leader looking forward to the implementation of joint projects.
"The forum provides another opportunity to renew and reaffirm valued relations based on mutual trust, respect, and friendship, and must continue to grow [in] strength and meaning in the coming years," said Duterte at the start of their meeting on Thursday, April 25.
Their meeting took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Duterte encouraged their two countries to continue to "explore new areas of cooperation and partership" and to fast-track the implementation of agreements signed during Xi's visit in November 2018.
"We envision high quality and good impact projects. The sooner they are completed, the sooner people on the ground will feel the benefits of Philippines-China relations," said Duterte.
Among the documents signed during Xi's visit was the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development. Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta Romana earlier said the terms of reference of the deal were still being finalized and would likely not be announced during Duterte's visit.
During their meeting, the Philippine leader also said Xi's state visit to the Philippines last year was a "watershed moment in Philippine-China ties." (READ: 'A friend in need': China's promises to PH)
Duterte and Xi witnessed the signing and exchange of two documents after their meeting.
The first was the Exchange of Letters on Production Capacity and Investment Cooperation between the Philippines and China.
The document includes a list of projects that will involve cooperation between the Philippines' National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
NEDA Director General Ernesto Pernia and NDRC Chairman He Lifeng signed the document.
Duterte and Xi also witnessed the ceremonial handover of China's financial grant for the construction of two rehabilitation centers.
The assistance was described as "grant-aid for the dangerous drugs abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers project" between the Philippine and Chinese governments.
This refers to the recently-constructed drug treatment centers in Sarangani and Agusan del Sur.
Sta Romana signed the certificate for the Philippines, while Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan signed on behalf of China.
This is Duterte's second time to attend the Belt and Road Forum and his 4th China visit in his presidency. (READ: PH to get $10B in deals, investments from Duterte's China visit – DTI)
Some 35 heads of state are attending the major diplomatic event, where China aims to showcase infrastructure projects with countries participating in their Belt and Road Initiative.
Duterte is also set to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. Official Belt and Road Forum activities for heads of state begin on Friday, April 26, and will end on Saturday, April 27. – 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.