Author: Leng Shumei
Posted: November 28, 2016

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said Sunday that they are not aware China and the Philippines are talking about a second visit to China by President Rodrigo Duterte as was reported by Philippine media. But there is a clear rationale for the two countries to come closer amid the possibilities rendered by US President-elect Donald Trump, according to analysts.

«I am going back to China soon. The schedule is being worked out now,» Duterte was quoted as saying by the Philippine Star on Friday after he ended his trip to Peru where he attended the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit.

However, an employee at the Chinese Embassy told the Global Times on Sunday that «we noticed relevant Philippine reports, but we haven’t heard the two governments have discussed a second visit.»

During Duterte’s four-day visit to China in October, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Duterte agreed that the two countries would properly handle differences and achieve a full improvement and greater progress in bilateral ties, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

On the sidelines of the APEC summit, Duterte told Xi that the Philippines is willing to be friends with «brotherly» China forever.

Manila is becoming more dependent on China than the US for its economy, which relies heavily on foreign investment, considering that Trump won the US presidential election earlier this month, Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.

Trump said he would pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal the moment he takes office, AFP reported.

«The uncertainties brought by Trump on his Asia-Pacific strategy have made Duterte pin his hopes on China to develop the Philippine economy and solve the South China Sea disputes to safeguard regional peace,» Gu Xiaosong, head of Southeast Asian Studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

China is willing to participate in the Southeast Asian nation’s infrastructure construction, covering railways, urban rail transit, highways, ports and other areas, so as to benefit the Philippine people, Xi said during his meeting with Duterte in October.

Chen said the two countries are very likely to further their talks on the disputed island in the South China Sea, including the establishment of a contact mechanism and protected marine sanctuary, if Duterte returns to China.

A Philippine Department of Tourism official said Manila is considering adding China to its visa-free policy, the Guangming Daily reported on Saturday.

Only 491,000 of the 120 million Chinese who traveled overseas last year visited the Philippines, the official said, adding that countries with a visa-free policy for China like Thailand and Malaysia have attracted more Chinese tourists.

«The development of tourism will not only increase incomes and jobs in the Philippines but will also help the country diversify its industries, which used to rely heavily on agriculture,» said Chen.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila also said it has yet to negotiate with the Philippine government on a visa-free policy toward China.

Dealing with illegal activities

Chen added that cooperation between China and the Philippines would also help to crack down on illegal activities, such as drug smuggling and illegal workers.

A total of 1,240 Chinese nationals were arrested for allegedly working for an online gambling operator in Fontana Leisure Park in Clark Freeport, a former US air base north of Manila, the Associated Press reported Friday.

The Chinese Embassy said on Saturday that 29 of the arrested Chinese under 18 years of age have been allowed to leave, and another four tourists who had been mistakenly arrested would also be released as long as their identities are confirmed.

The Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Justice department are still conducting an investigation, according to the announcement.

The two countries might also talk about how to deal with Chinese in the Philippines involved in the latter’s nationwide crackdown on drugs, Gu noted.

Read more: