Rody opens door to Xi

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Two thumbs up President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledges the applause from the crowd that included former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III after assuring businessmen of a level playing field during his term. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

As if to highlight how he values his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Rodrigo Duterte intends to invite him to his Davao City home when the former visits the country later this month.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the announcement on Thursday as he quoted the President as saying he will invite the Chinese President “if they want it.”

“If they want, I will bring them there,” said Panelo, quoting Mr. Duterte’s response to reporters the previous night.

The Chinese President will be in Manila at the end of this month after the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Papua New Guinea, reciprocating a state visit made by Duterte in Beijing in October 2016.

Springtime in ties

During the visit, the Filipino leader heralded a “springtime” in diplomatic relations between the two countries that have been strained by the maritime row in the disputed South China Sea.

It will be Xi’s first visit under the Duterte administration whose government has nurtured warmer ties with China amid a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

To recall, Duterte has chosen to seek stronger economic and trade ties with China, the world’s second biggest economy, instead of flaunting Manila’s victory over Beijing in the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 which declared as illegal China’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea.

Xi could become the second foreign top leader to visit Duterte’s home at Doña Luisa Subdivision in Matina District after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured his house in January last year.

Bedroom meeting

During the 45 minutes that Abe was in Duterte’s house, 10 minutes were spent inside the President’s bedroom. Only two other people accompanied Duterte and Abe.

The Palace said Abe was served biko, suman, kutsinta, mongo soup, fruits and drinks during the visit.

The President, however, promised to raise the ruling with China during his term which ends in June 2022.

The government is expected to sign at least five agreements with China during Xi’s visit, according to the Palace.

These agreements will cover loan and guarantee accords, economic and technical cooperation, support for the feasibility studies on the Philippines’ infrastructure projects and promoting cooperation on key projects in Mindanao under the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program.

The proposed exploration deal on the disputed areas in the South China Sea, however, will not be signed during the visit.

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