President Duterte has claimed that Chinese president Xi Jinping has promised to “protect him” from any attempt to oust him.
The president’s words today (Tuesday, May 15) came as he boasted of Manila and Beijing’s blooming ties under his leadership.
“The assurances of Xi Jinping were very encouraging. He said, ’We will not allow you to be taken out from your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs’,” he told Filipino scientists who are set to study the Philippine Rise off the northeast coast of the country.
“Maybe because I’m a freely elected leader. It could be a very justified statement.”
Since his election, the president has chosen to downplay the South China Sea dispute. He has also sought to diminish the country’s traditionally close alliance with the USA, however, relations with Washington have warmed since the election of President Trump.
The Philippines and China have for decades been embroiled in a dispute over sovereignty in the disputed waters.
It reached a critical point during the presidency of Benigno Aquino, who filed a case against Beijing before a United Nations-backed tribunal in 2013.
The tribunal ruled in favour of Manila in 2016, declaring China’s expansive nine-dash line claiming nearly all of the sea to be invalid. Beijing has ignored the ruling.
The president has long said that he won’t raise Manila’s victory, instead pointing to the benefits that the Philippines enjoys thanks to friendly ties with Beijing.
The president recently blamed the US for the current maritime tensions. He said it had failed to stop China building and arming artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
As we reported in February, the president even joked that the Philippines was a province of “The Republic of China”. However, his words, addressed to an audience of Filipino-Chinese businessmen, raised eyebrows in Beijing, as he had inadvertently used the official name of Taiwan.