Commentary: Visit of Chinese warships boosts relations with Philippines

Yao Jianing
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) poses for a photo with Chinese navy sailors on missile destroyer Changchun in Davao City, the Philippines, May 1, 2017. A Chinese naval fleet has begun a three-day friendly visit after arriving Sunday at Davao City in the southeastern region of The Philippines. (Xinhua/Yu Wei)

by Xinhua Writer Yang Ke

MANILA, May 2 (Xinhua) -- A flotilla of three Chinese naval ships wrapped up its goodwill visit to the Philippines on Tuesday, leaving in its wake blooming friendship and aspirations to enhance relations between the two countries.

The three Chinese warships, guided-missile destroyer Changchun, guided-missile frigate Jinzhou and replenishment ship Chaohu, docked on Sunday in the southern Philippine city of Davao, hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, for a three-day visit.

The visit, the first by Chinese military ships to the Philippines in seven years, aims to expand communication, promote cooperation and improve the friendship between China and the Philippines.

Relations between China and the Philippines have experienced ups and downs in the past several years. But territorial disputes in the South China Sea were brought under control after President Duterte came to power last June.

Duterte has once said he prefers negotiation to confrontation over the South China Sea issue. "There is no sense in going to war. There is no sense fighting over a body of water," Duterte told Xinhua in an exclusive interview last year.

"It is better to talk than war. We want to talk about friendship, we want to talk about cooperation, and most of all, we want to talk about business. War would lead us to nowhere," he added.

In its newly unveiled development strategies dubbed Dutertenomics, the Philippine government would spend 8.4 trillion pesos (167 billion U.S. dollars) for infrastructure in the next six years.

China's Belt and Road Initiative, which focuses on infrastructure building, dovetails with Philippines' development strategy.

In a press conference at the end of the ASEAN summit held in Manila, Duterte lauded China's Belt and Road Initiative as being "good for the Southeast Asia region," saying it would help China's neighbors like the Philippines.

Trade and investment might be Duterte's first thoughts when normal bilateral relations between China and the Philippines resumed after years of disputes over the South China Sea.

Duterte said he was very "impressive" with the visiting Chinese ships. "It is really part of confidence building and goodwill to show that we are friends," Duterte told reporters after he visited Changchun.

Duterte said that he is open to holding joint military drills with China. "I agree (to the idea). They can have joint exercise here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea," Duterte said.


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