By Genalyn Kabiling
Combatting terrorism and cross-border traffic of illegal drugs will be part of the agenda when President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of a regional economic summit in China next week.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Manuel Antonio Teehankee revealed this on Friday, stressing that meeting between the two leaders is expected to enhance bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries. He also said that the territorial dispute may also be discussed.
Duterte is scheduled to travel to Hainan, China, to attend the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), regarded as China’s equivalent to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, on April 10, then proceed to Hong Kong on April 11 for a working visit. This will be his third visit to China since he assumed office in 2016.
“On April 10, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss ways to further enhance the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and China,”Teehankee said during a Palace press briefing.
“The two leaders will also discuss ways to collaborate on jointly addressing pressing issues as well as common threats such as violent extremism and terrorism and cross-border traffic of illegal narcotics,” he added.
The dispute in the South China Sea as well as the proposed joint exploration might also be raised during the Duterte’s meeting with Xi next week.
“I don’t have the details of the bilateral meeting. But we can expect that pursuant to the follow-up from the March meeting that any joint exploration will be based on prudent principles that will be beneficial to the Philippines and China and to the Asia Pacific region in general,”Teehankee said.
When asked if the territorial dispute will be part of the discussion between the two leaders, he said: “At the bilateral meeting this may come up as well.”
The two leaders last met at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam last November.
The President, meantime, is expected to share his vision for greater economic prosperity in the Philippines when he delivers an address at the BFA opening plenary on April 10.
“Addressing the BFA is a singular privilege for the Philippines and a privilege for acknowledging the President’s role and leadership in Asia and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Region,”Teehankee said.
He said the President looks forward to engaging his counterparts “to create positive outcomes that will benefit the Filipino people in particular in the Asia Pacific region in general.”
“The President sees the goals of the forum as parallel and complementary to his own vision of a developed Philippines and a more prosperous Filipino nation as well as a more prosperous ASEAN economic region,” he said.
He noted that the President’s goal is to reduce poverty rate from 21 percent to 14 percent by 2022 and hopefully zero by 2040.
“So the real challenge for the Asia is to eliminate poverty. Zero poverty is the goal of the President. Walang maiiwanan. No one is left behind,” he said.
“This is a common theme of the President whether it is in ASEAN, APEC, the World Economic Forum or the BFA, which is inclusive growth for all and that is the challenge and the great dream that the Philippines has for Asia and for itself,” he added.
Apart from Duterte, leaders from Austria, Mongolia, Pakistan, Singapore, the Netherlands, United Nations, and International Monetary Fund are expected to attend the economic forum.
Teehankee said the BFA, an international dialogue platform for Asia Pacific countries and other partner nations and organizations, carries the theme “An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity” this year.
He said the forum aims to bring together heads of state, business elites, academic experts and media personalities “to discuss cooperation, innovations, and solutions towards a more open and prosperous Asia.”
From the Boao Forum, the President is expected to travel to Hong Kong to meet with the Filipino community. Teehankee said the welfare of the overseas Filipino workers is “one of the initiatives closest to the heart of the President.”
“He is eager to see and hear firsthand the concerns and the situation of our kababayans in Hong Kong,” he said.
Duterte is expected to return to the country on April 12.