By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Philippines this week will mark the first time that a Chinese leader will be making such gesture to the country after more than a decade.
Xi will be having a two-day state visit in the Philippines from November 20 to 21 upon the invitation of President Duterte. Xi will be arriving in Manila straight from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Papua New Guinea.
But aside from Xi’s visit being noteworthy because of his government’s closer ties with the Philippines under the Duterte administration, Xi’s visit will also be historic as it will be
the first time a Chinese president steps on Philippine soil in 13 years.
The last time a Chinese president made a statement to the country was Hu Jintao in 2005 under the administration of former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Arroyo’s administration also had stronger ties with China and Hu’s visit 13 years ago coincided with the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two Asian countries.
Xi’s visit is also amid the ongoing negotiations for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between China and Southeast Asian countries. The Philippines is the coordinator for the region’s dialogue partnership with China for the next three years.
The last time Xi was in Manila was in November 2015 for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.
Duterte has also personally invited Xi to visit the Philippines during his three trips to China, namely in October 2016, May 2017, and April this year.
In preparation for the Chinese president’s visit, Foreign Minister Wang Yi flew to Davao City last month where he met with Duterte and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Last year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had also made an official visit to Manila after his participation to the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related summits hosted by the Philippines.
During Li’s visit to Malacañang in November last year, Duterte offered to him the third slot in the telecommunications industry in the country.
Duterte has set aside The Hague ruling giving the Philippines rights over disputed portions of the South China Sea to make better ties with China. He however assured that he has not abandoned the award and will raise it with China before his term ends.