Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was set to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday for his fifth official visit to China at a time of growing tensions with the country over the South China Sea.
Duterte’s visit is set to last till September 1 during which he will also visit China’s Guangdong province.
On August 31, Duterte will cheer on the Philippines’ men’s basketball team during its match against Italy in regional capital Guangzhou as part of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, according to Efe news.
Duterte, who has reoriented the Philippines’ foreign policy closer to Beijing, will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday, the eighth bilateral meeting between the two leaders since Duterte assumed office in 2016.
Despite a good understanding between Duterte and Xi, the meeting comes at a delicate time in bilateral ties due to the maritime dispute in South China Sea, which has led Manila to lodge three diplomatic protests with Beijing since April.
The agenda of the Philippines President’s visit is limited to a number of bilateral agreements, however presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Duterte will discuss recent incidents in the contested South China Sea with Xi and cite the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, which supported Manila’s claims.
The court verdict recognized the Philippines’ rights to some territories in the South China Sea, including Scarborough Shoal and part of the Spratly archipelago, where China has constructed de facto military bases on artificial islands.
In order to prevent an escalation in tensions in the region, Duterte has called for signing a 60-40 resource-sharing agreement in favour of the Philippines for exploring the energy and mineral reserves in the disputed waters. The issue is expected to be discussed during the visit, despite the deal being criticized by civil society groups and the Philippines opposition.
Duterte’s visit is also aimed at boosting the already strong economic ties between two countries, which carried out bilateral trade worth $55.7 billion in 2018.