Former President Rodrigo Duterte doesn’t need permission to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Tuesday, adding that he is sure his predecessor will share details of the meeting with the current administration.
This developed as a former US defense official said China is trying to entice the Philippines and its neighboring countries into forming a “Chinese kind of hegemonic order” in the wake of the Duterte-Xi meeting in Beijing on Monday.
Elbridge Colby, former US defense assistant secretary for strategy and force development, failed to specify what Xi and Duterte discussed at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Monday, but he described it as “misleading at best.”
In a post, Chinese Foreign Affairs Assistant Minister Hua Chunying said that Xi “appreciates the strategic choice Mr. Duterte made to improve relations with China during his presidency.”
At the sidelines of the pilot launch of the “Walang Gutom 2027: Food Stamp Program” in Tondo, Manila, Mr. Marcos said he was hoping for “progress” in the meeting of China’s leader and the Philippines’ 16th President.
Asked if Duterte requested his blessing for the trip, the President said no, adding there is no need to ask for permission “because the two (Duterte and Xi) are friends.”
“All of these things that we are seeing now, I hope that there’s progress during their talk. Because that’s what we want, a continuous line of communication with them,” the President told reporters.
The Chief Executive said he is open to any new lines of communication with the Communist giant, and if his predecessor will serve as the bridge between the Philippines and China, it’s okay with him.
“For me, it’s not important who or what it is, as long as we have someone we can communicate maybe they could help… I am sure (Duterte) will be able to tell us what happened during their conversation and see how that affects us,” said the President.
Former President Duterte meet with Xi on July 17 in Beijing, sparking curiosity owing to Mr. Marcos’ administration leaning toward a stronger alliance with the United States, China’s biggest rival.
Colby, in an interview with local channel ANC, said: “I think the proof has been in the pudding over the last decade or so, both in the continued aggressiveness of Chinese military and brazen activities but also in the relatively disappointing results of Chinese economic investments.”
“If the Philippines is alone with China, which is going to have a navy that is 1.5 times the size of the US Navy by the end of this decade, no one will be able to help the Philippines if the Chinese continue to try to push Manila around, which is already the behavior we see,” he added.
As press time, no official details have so far been disclosed about the meeting between Xi and Duterte, who had established warmer ties with China during his presidency from 2016 to 2022.
However, Chinese officials expressed hope Duterte would continue to promote “friendly cooperation” between the Philippines and China despite persisting tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
While the US and Japan have called the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling on the West Philippine Sea as “final and legally binding,” China has continuously rejected the award, even accusing the US of involvement in the decision.
But Colby said China’s accusations against the US on The Hague ruling were “immaterial,” with China “trying to deflect” the issue.
The former US official said continued partnership between the Philippines and its longtime ally would be the only deterrent to China’s increasing aggressions in the South China Sea.
“The only way that China’s going to be impressed and influenced and ultimately deterred is through hard power and resolve together, and that’s why the alliance and the EDCA announcements are so important,” Colby said.
He was referring to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement the Philippines and the US signed in 2014.
While the Philippines can develop partnerships with the US, Japan, and other nations, it can still trade with China as it is one of the country’s top trading partners, Colby added.
“You can still trade with China… but here’s the thing: China also needs to put that money to work and the news coming out from China about economic difficulties they’re having shows they don’t have an infinite ability to just turn off their economic engagements,” he observed.
“China’s not in the position where it can simply ignore the rest of the world,” he said.