By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte is looking forward to returning to China for the second Belt and Road Forum in April this year, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
In his press briefing, Panelo said that Duterte received the invitation for the event during his almost one-hour-thirty-minute meeting with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua in Malacañang Wednesday.
“He extended the invitation to the President, giving the greeting from the President of China, to attend the Belt and Road Forum in late April of this year,” he said.
According to Panelo, Duterte will most likely attend the forum like he did during its launch in 2017.
“He looks forward to attending the event. I think so, yes [he will attend],” he said.
The Belt and Road Forum is an international cooperation platform which aims for a closer, stronger partnership network; and pushes for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system.
The first forum held in China in May 2017 drew 29 foreign heads of state and government and representatives from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations.
A report by Xinhua said Duterte saw the upcoming event to further promote the development of the bilateral relations between the Philippines and China.
Meanwhile, Panelo said that Zhao commended the police officer who was the subject of the taho-throwing incident early this month.
“He said he saw the video and Ambassador Zhao said he was impressed by the professionalism and restraint exhibited by the police officer. And he said that Chinese government does not tolerate this kind of behavior,” Panelo said.
According to the Palace official, Zhao also said that it is only right for the Philippines to prosecute foreigners who violate their laws.
“In fact, he said that in the Philippines we should prosecute nationals of other countries, including Chinese, who violate our laws in the same way that Chinese government will also prosecute foreign nationals that violate their laws,” Panelo said.
He added that Zhao also suggested to Duterte if the Philippines can already “implement the memorandum of agreement that we had, with respect to our shared interest.”
“Remember that we included the communication, infrastructure, and other mutually interesting to both countries and beneficial,” Panelo said.
President Duterte, upon assuming the presidency, has opted to temporarily set aside the court ruling affirming the Philippines’ rights over the disputed West Philippine Sea in order to build stronger ties with China.
The President, however, vowed to revisit the arbitral ruling before his term ends.