Red-carpet PH welcome for Xi Jinping amid protests

MANILA, Philippines – What happens when Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to the Philippines for a state visit

On Tuesday, November 20, the day of Xi's arrival, the Philippine government rolled out the red carpet for the state guest and deployed over 6,000 cops to ensure he's fully secured during his two-day visit.

The city governments of Manila and Taguig suspended classes, while outside the Chinese embassy in Makati City, groups protested the visit of the Chinese leader. (IN PHOTOS: Groups to Xi Jinping: 'Stay out of West PH Sea)

While a 5-star hotel prepared its best as Xi's choice accomodation in the country, authorities stationed near the Shangri-La  at the Fort hotel in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), directed traffic and secured the perimeter of nearby blocks. Cops in riot gear guarded streets around the hotel and every few meters you would be greeted by yet another policeman.

“Our relations have now seen a rainbow after the rain,” Xi said  in a statement on the eve of his Philippine trip – the first state visit of a Chinese president in 13 years. 

Outside Xi's hotel, Philippine and Chinese flags fluttered by the roadside, held by two Filipino Chinese men who came with their children to get a glimpse of Xi. (READ: Why Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit matters to Filipinos)

Near the two men was a young girl who was in an apparent dispute with her mother, who held her hand as they walked by. The mother had just explained to her daughter that Xi was a very big, important person.

“No way he’s (Xi) as big as the world," the girl told  her mother. "If he’s a person, he’s tiny just like us!" 

'China helps us'

As early as 10:30 am, several Filipino-Chinese mothers stood outside the hotel, carrying their babies. Others who also wanted to greet Xi awaited his arrival in the hotel.

WAITING. Mothers bring their children to wait outside the Shangri-La hotel.

WAITING. Mothers bring their children to wait outside the Shangri-La hotel.

“Of course...masayang-masaya kami. Gusto lang namin siyang makita (we’re so happy. We just want to see him),” said a Filipino Chinese who asked not to be named.

He told Rappler he’s Chinese “but born in the Philippines” and that during Xi’s visit, he wanted the Chinese president to help businesses here.

He said China "really helps" the Philippines through assistance to the poor and infrastructure like "bridges and roads" unlike the United States which, he added, gave the country weapons "to fight China."

As it enjoyed warmer ties with China, the Philippines had obtained about 100 bilateral agreements, grants, and projects from the regional giant since President Rodrigo Duterte took office. (READ: ‘A friend in need’: China’s promises to PH)

The expected highlight of Xi’s state visit is the signing of a joint exploration deal  in the West Philippine Sea, which critics allege is unconstitutional.

GUARDED. Police in riot gear surround nearby streets during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit.

GUARDED. Police in riot gear surround nearby streets during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit.

Waiting for a show

Inside the hotel, guests surprised by Xi’s visit waited for the show.

Security filled the lobby as hotel staff – some flew in from China or were transferred from other hotels for the event – positioned themselves to greet the Chinese delegation.

Dutch national Herman, 68, who’s lived in the Philippines since 2016, said that he was there to have lunch but got excited when heard of Xi’s arrival.

“I live in BGC and came here for some lunch, then I get a bloody show,” he said.

WATCH: Individuals part of the Chinese delegation rush into the hotel ahead of Xi’s arrival #XiJinpingPH @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/1hd9CiChNW — Sofia Tomacruz (@sofiatomacruz) November 20, 2018

Herman said he was interested to see a deal made between the two countries to drill for oil in “the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea”  – a name, he claimed, had nothing to do with ownership.

“I think it’s smart of Duterte to make strong ties with China because they’re closer by and have interests here.... He’s (Xi) a lot saner than the president of the United States right now,” he added.

LOOK: Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi arrives #XiJinpingPH @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/NJM2H5Uo4F — Sofia Tomacruz (@sofiatomacruz) November 20, 2018

Just as quickly, delegates and journalists rushed in as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi led Xi’s advance party in the hotel.

Herman, not expecting to see Wang Yi said: “Will Xi be coming soon? I’d like to see but if not, I’ll have my lunch now.”

Xi did not arrive in the hotel that afternoon. After his arrival at the airport around noon, he was next seen hours later at the Rizal Shrine in Luneta Park for a wreath-laying ceremony, followed by a string of engagements in Malacañang Palace where the walkways were fitted with red carpet for the state guest. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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