President Rodrigo Duterte arrived Sunday, November 12, from a fruitful APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) in Viet Nam solidifying relations with major powers China and Russia.
In his arrival speech, President Duterte said he considered his bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin as the “most productive” part of his trip in Da Nang.
“I also took the opportunity to meet my counterparts from many economies. I renewed my friendship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and with President Xi Jinping of China,” he said upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.
The President first met with Putin on the sidelines of the AELM, where the Russian leader vowed to support the country’s fight against terrorism which is a common challenge for both countries.
Duterte likewise thanked Putin for Russia’s “timely assistance” in putting an end to the five-month long Marawi crisis.
Before he returned to Manila, Duterte met with President Xi Jinping lauding him also for China’s assistance in resolving the Marawi siege.
“I see a very bright future for our relationship. Nothing to do with military. I have stated before and I was not lying, I would not entertain talks about military or anything except that I had to thank Mr. Xi Jinping for the timely and crucial help that he extended to our country when we were fighting the siege of Marawi,” he said.
Duterte said the issue on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea was discussed noting that the Chinese President expressed willingness to hold a summit or a multilateral dialogue to tackle the matter.
“President Xi Jinping mentioned about a summit or a meeting, multilateral only to talk about the rules of conduct. It has nothing to do with sovereignty,” he said.
He added that China made the assurance that it would not impede the freedom of navigation in the disputed sea.
He likewise believed that the tensions in the South China Sea would not escalate into war saying that China also could not afford to put the lives of its people in danger.
“He knows that if he goes to war, everything will blow up. He acknowledged that war cannot be promoted by anybody, but it would only mean destruction for all of us,” he said.
“And I believe him because like me, he’s worried about the health and the problem of his countrymen,” he added.
The two leaders also discussed the North Korea issue. “At this time when everybody has in his pocket a large number of nuclear arms, China, America, Russia, Iran, North Korea, it is not a good time to talk about quarrel,” said the President.
Amid regional issues, Duterte said he assured President Xi that his friendship with him would remain “warm and robust.”
“I was also given again an invitation to go back to China whether as a friend, official, not official visits,” he shared.
“He said, ‘you can go to China if you want to observe anything and promote the same — the physical features of what you see now, pwede mong tignan, and you can go there as a tourist and we will guide you and show you the factories and all. And maybe you can learn something very useful for your country,” he said as he recalled his conversation with the Chinese leader.
Aside from the two leaders, Duterte also had bilateral meetings with President Tran Dai Quang of Viet Nam, the current host of APEC and a fellow member of ASEAN, and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of Papua New Guinea, the incoming Chair of APEC next year.
PRESIDENT DUTERTE PROMISES BETTER PHILIPPINES
As the President concluded his attendance to the Asia-Pacific summit, he promised to make the country even more competitive in the region.
“Together with other APEC Economic Leaders, we agreed to work tirelessly for free and open market and investment towards quality and innovative growth in the 21st century,” he said.
“Connectivity, the internet and digital economy, public-private partnerships, and the other inclusion of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) in global value chains were some of the salient points and shared priorities of economies in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.
The President said he had an opportunity to discuss with fellow leaders the importance of inclusive growth and the need to provide MSMEs with the opportunities to grow and become catalysts for national development.
In order for small and medium businesses to grow, Duterte said, the country must focus on stamping out corruption, red tape as well as address illegal drugs and security.
“I need peace in my country and I need to get rid of corruption… We have come up with the gamut of so many things there, including sa negosyo,” the President said.
Eliminating corruption, criminality and illegal drugs are main campaign pledges of President Duterte when he ran for office.
The government will also focus on education, with the President suggesting that Filipino school children should learn the basics about cyberspace and digital communications.
“And I will make that mandatory. Instead of textbook bibili na tayo ng — for each of the children. Mag-aral na sila ngayon as early as first year,” the President said.
Duterte said the government will also increase infrastructure spending to “realize the ‘Golden Age of Infrastructure’ that will enhance mobility and connectivity.”
There must be an improvement in food security, he said, noting that while the country allocate vast tracks of land for commercial cultivation of crops for the export market, ensuring enough local supply of food must be prioritized.
The country’s population has been increasing exponentially and Filipinos have to survive, he said. PND