Beijing and Manila have signed a joint oil and gas deal as Chinese President Xi Jinping began a two-day visit to the Philippines.
The two nations also signed a “memorandum of understanding” yesterday (Tuesday, November 20) to co-operate on Beijing’s “Belt and Road” trade and infrastructure strategy — along with 27 other deals.
After meeting President Duterte for talks, Xi described the visit as a “milestone” in relations between the two countries. Xi is the first Chinese leader to visit Manila in 13 years.
“China and the Philippines have a lot of common interests in the South China Sea,” Xi said after the talks. “We will continue to manage contentious issues and promote maritime cooperation through friendly consultation.”
He also said China would work with other Southeast Asian countries to finalise a code of conduct for the disputed waters within three years.
President Duterte said China and the Philippines had deepened ties in a wide range of areas under his administration.
“I am pleased with the current positive momentum of the Philippine-China relations,” he said. “There is deepening trust and confidence of government.”
Details of the oil and gas deal — such as the areas it covers — have not yet been disclosed. However, amid China’s territorial expansionism in the South China Sea the deal is already causing controversy.
Even before President Xi touched down in the country, hundreds of protesters descended on the Chinese embassy in Manila to voice their opposition to any closer links with Beijing.
“Philippines is not for sale,” the marchers chanted, as some brandished signs saying “China out of Philippine waters” in reference to their dispute over the South China Sea.
Critics are most concerned about President Duterte’s decision to downplay the 2016 Hague Tribunal ruling that declared Beijing’s claim over the waters as being without basis.
Other agreements signed today include the financing of the Kaliwa dam project, deals to build a 581km railway line from Los Banos to Matnog, on currency swaps and for infrastructure development in Davao City.