Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first state visit to the Philippines on November 20-21, Malacañang said Thursday, as Manila and Beijing seek to strengthen ties.
Xi will be in Manila after the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Papua New Guinea and his state visit to Brunei, reciprocating a visit made by President Rodrigo Duterte in Beijing in October 2016 when the Filipino leader heralded a "springtime" in diplomatic relations that have been strained by the maritime row in the disputed South China Sea.
The Palace said Xi's upcoming visit was upon the invitation of the President.
"During the state visit, the two leaders [President Duterte and President Xi] will exchange views on areas of mutual concern and chart the course for the future of Philippines-China bilateral relations," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
The Palace earlier said Duterte will invite Xi to tour his Davao City home.
Xi will be the first Chinese leader to conduct a state visit to the Philippines since then-President Hu Jintao in April 2005.
The last time Xi was in the Philippines was in 2015 when he participated in the APEC Leaders’ Summit hosted by then-President Benigno Aquino III, who brought the arbitration case against China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.
Duterte has chosen to seek stronger economic and trade ties with China, the world’s second biggest economy, instead of flaunting Manila’s victory over Beijing in the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 which declared as illegal China's claim over nearly the entire South China Sea.
The President, however, promised to raise the ruling with China during his term which ends in June 2022.
The Philippines is expected to sign at least five agreements with China during Xi’s visit, the Department of Finance has said.
The agreements cover loan and guarantee accords, economic and technical cooperation, support for the feasibility studies on the Philippines' infrastructure projects, and promoting cooperation on key projects in Mindanao under the ambitious "Build, Build, Build" program.
The exploration deal on the disputed areas in the South China Sea, however, will not be signed during the visit, according to the Department of Energy. — Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News