President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, promised to protect him from any ouster attempts.
"The assurances of Xi Jinping were very encouraging... 'We will not allow you to be taken out from your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs,'" Duterte said in a speech during the send off ceremony off Aurora province for Filipino scientists who will conduct research in the Philippine Rise.
"Siguro kasi freely elected leader naman ako, it could be a very justified statement," he added.
Duterte and Xi met last month at the Boao Forum for Asia in the southern province of Hainan, where the two leaders affirmed the warming relationship between the Philippines and China amid a maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
"Naisip isip ko wala man tayo magawa dito sa China might as well make friends with them," the President said.
The United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration delivered in July 2016 a sweeping victory to the Philippines on the case it filed against China during the term of then-President Benigno Aquino III, declaring as illegal China's claim over nearly the entire South China Sea.
It also declared that Beijing violated the rights of Filipinos, who were blocked by Chinese Coast Guard from fishing in the disputed Scarborough Shoal off Zambales.
Duterte, however, temporarily set aside the ruling to avoid confrontation with China, but vowed to raise it at the right time during his presidency.
He also blamed the United States and Aquino for not confronting China's excessive claims and buildup of military facilities on the artificial islands in the strategic waterway. —NB, GMA News