By Genalyn Kabiling
China has never asked for anything, not even a part of the country’s territory, in exchange for its assistance to the development of the Philippines, President Duterte declared Tuesday.
As the two nations focused on “friendship and cooperation,” the President also expressed optimism that China would be “fair” when the two nations eventually address the conflict in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte tackled China’s financial aid to the country as well as territorial dispute during the groundbreaking ceremony for the two bridges donated by China to the Philippines.
“I’ve been to China. I have talked to the leadership of the government and I have had the honor of meeting President Xi (Jinping) and talked about a lot about friendships and cooperation,” he said during the groundbreaking ceremony of the two bridges in Manila.
“I just like to tell everybody that in all of these discussions, China never asked for any, not even a one square of real estate in this country,” he added.
The President also revealed that he and Xi have agreed to discuss the arbitration case on the South China Sea “at some other time.”
Duterte said he would give China “sufficient” time to sort out some bilateral issues before raising anew the court ruling with Xi.
“Its geopolitics position is something which is critical to China and the stand which we disagreed (on) as we filed the arbitration case. But in the meantime that we are talking about a concerted effort of both countries to develop is going on, we have promised to deal with the problem from the President himself, President Xi of the People’s Republic of China, that we will discuss this at some other time, as China has to deal with individually bilateral relations and issues,” Duterte said.
“So allow China — we will allow them the sufficient period to sort out things and I’m sure that in the end, China will be fair and the equity will be distributed,” he said.
Duterte also mentioned the crafting of “blueprint” in relation to the South China Sea issue but declined to reveal the deals.
“I cannot talk about — well, elaborate things now. They are in the blueprint. But in the days to come, we would realize that China after all is really a good neighbor,” he said.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled largely in favor of the Philippines after it nullified the China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.
The President previously raised the arbitration ruling and the government’s plans to dig oil in the South China Sea in his initial meeting with Xi in Beijing. Duterte however got a friendly reminder from Xi that such move could court trouble in the region.
Instead of waging a war, Duterte decided to enhance other areas of cooperation such as trade, investments and defense while pursuing a bilateral dialogue to manage the territorial dispute.
The two countries also agreed to formulate a framework on the planned joint oil exploration in the disputed region.
Meantime, the President has expressed gratitude to China for offering to bankroll the construction of the two bridges crossing Pasig River, namely the Binondo-Intramuros and the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridges.
Duterte said the bridges would not only improve the capacity and the efficiency of Metro Manila’s transportation corridor but would also enhance the resilience of the road network against natural disasters.
“Allow me to express my appreciation to China for their generosity in funding the construction of these two bridges. As a friend, China has once again proved that they intend to join us in achieving lasting progress by addressing traffic congestion in Metro Manila,” he said.