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Duterte: China is PHL’s partner vs. crime, drugs, terrorism

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said China and the Philippines are working together in the fight against crime, drugs and terrorism.

"Bilaterally, the Philippines has shown how complex relations are, but not a bar to positive and mutually beneficial engagement. With China, we stand together in the war on criminality and illegal drug trade," Duterte said in a speech delivered at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018 in Hainan, China.

"We are shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism," he added.

"Make no mistake: there can be no progress without stability in Asia’s lands and waters," said Duterte, adding that the Philippines has made "considerable headway" in improving the peace and order situation under his administration.

Relations between the Philippines and China soured during the previous administration due to territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea. The Aquino administration filed a case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled in July 2016 that there was no legal basis for China's claim to historic rights to resources falling within its supposed nine-dash line.

Duterte's administration, however, favored a friendlier approach towards China, with the president choosing to engage bilaterally and discuss the possibility of a joint exploration of the disputed territories. Philippine officials have repeatedly said they want to work on other areas of cooperation with China.

Duterte also urged all Asian nations to work together and that the Philippines is "is ready to work with all nations in the region to seek friendship and cooperation."

He said Asian countries have a responsibility to build a more prosperous continent and world, and this may only be done through collective actions big or small.

In his speech, the Philippine leader said China is also a Philippine partner in infrastructure building.

"As sovereign equals, the Philippines and China are partners in the building of the much-needed infrastructure. [We are building] bridges of greater understanding between our peoples. We are working together on strengthening economic complementarities," he said.

Duterte said his administration's “Build, Build, Build” program "will provide the solid backbone for growth" through infrastructure that would connect more communities and create more jobs.

The Philippines has already started a three-year rolling program amounting to over US$69 billion until 2022, he said.

Before leaving for China, Duterte remarked that China is an important factor for the his administration's "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure plan.

The infrastructure project aims to spend P8 trillion to P9 trillion in public spending on infrastructure from 2017 to 2022 to reduce poverty from 21.6% in 2015 to 13%-15% by 2022.

In an earlier speech, Duterte said the infrastructure program will not only ignite progress but will also generate new jobs.

He said that the Philippines will also focus on interconnectivity and innovation.

Among the agencies mentioned by Duterte for this initiative is the Department of Science and Technology's Innovation Council, formerly the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

"We will improve the competitiveness and productivity of our MSNEs. With greater access to technology and financing, we will apply science, technology, and innovation in agriculture and same industries," he said.

Apart from learning from other countries' agricultural science, the Philippines will also invest in improving research and development and "intensify international cooperation in this area."

Duterte also vowed that the Philippines will remain committed to interconnectivity both in functional terms and in political investment.

"And cooperation, with our friends and neighbors, we will harness the potential for shared growth in our region and beyond," he said, noting the Philippines action as ASEAN chair to improve inter-regional relationships.

Duterte is set to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping Tuesday night.

The Philippines and China are expected to come up with several agreements, including one that will allow the hiring of more Filipino English teachers in China. —Jam Sisante and Rie Takumi/ALG, GMA News