MANILA, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said that his country expects to boost traditional friendship with China and further bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
Duterte starts a four-day state visit to China on Tuesday at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.
The visit will help him better understand China, Duterte told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
He spoke highly of the Chinese government and people, saying that China boasts hard-working people and “good, sound policies, internal and external.”
“I would say that China deserves the kind of respect that China now enjoys,” he added.
Duterte also lauded China’s commitment to and generosity of helping others as a major player of the international community, adding that besides its own development, China has never forgotten those underdeveloped nations, as illustrated by its devotion to helping African and Southeast Asian countries to promote development.
Speaking of the two countries’ economic and trade cooperation, Duterte said that since his country is abundant in tourism, mineral and agricultural resources, and China boasts a huge lucrative market, the two neighbors enjoy high complementarity and considerable potential for further cooperation.
The Philippine leader said his country needs to retain its friendly relationship with China and learn from the latter’s success in economics and trade, especially in times of global financial crisis.
In terms of the South China Sea issue, Duterte said he prefers negotiation to confrontation.
“There is no sense in going to war. There is no sense fighting over a body of water,” Duterte said. “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.”
Duterte also made clear his opposition against some specific outsiders’ attempts to meddle in the South China Sea issue.
“We are not interested in allowing other country to talk. I just want to talk to China,” he said, adding he is willing to pursue joint development of the waters together with China.
The top Philippine leader also extended his gratitude to China, which, in stark contrast to some Western countries, has extended support for Philippine efforts against illegal drugs, as proved by the funding of a rehabilitation center which is about to open.
“Some other countries know we are short of money, (but) instead of helping us, all they had to do was just to criticize. China never criticizes. They help us quietly. and I said that’s why it’s part of the sincerity of the people,” Duterte noted.
The philippine president also expressed his desire to let Manila jump onto the bandwagon of the Beijing-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, as his nation is short of funding for infrastructure such as railways and seaports.
He added that rapid development is hard to accomplish for any country without railways, saying he hopes China could offer soft loans.
“There are so many things in my country which I would like to implement, but for lack of the capital stock,” he said.
The Philippines also hopes to realize common prosperity. “If we can have the things you have given to other countries by the way of assistance, we’d also like to be a part of it and to be a part of the greater plans of China about the whole of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia,” Duterte said.
Speaking of his upcoming China tour, Duterte said he will take the opportunity to conduct dialogue with China so as to enhance mutual understanding and partnership.
“All that I would need to do is just to talk and get a firm handshake from the officials and say that we are Filipinos and we are ready to cooperate with you, to help us in building our economy and building our country.”
There are some 2 million ethnic Chinese living and working in the Philippines, he said. “So we might be asking for your help, asking the Chinese people to help Chinese people here. They are Filipinos but they are also Chinese,” Duterte said.
“My grandfather is Chinese … It’s only China (that) can help us,” Duterte said.