The Philippines, a historical ally of the United States, represents a fundamental front in the struggle between Beijing and Washington. Xi's visit emphasizes the relaxation of relations with Manila, tense during the Aquino administration for a dispute in the South China Sea. Manila hopes to sign agreements and obtain the 24 billion US dollars in investments and loans promised by China two years ago.
Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After 13 years since the last trip of a Chinese president to the Philippines, Xi Jinping arrived in Manila this morning for a two-day state visit. According to experts, this could redefine the geopolitical balance in Southeast Asia.
The trip underlines the easing in relations between Manila and Beijing, tense during the Aquino administration over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Two years ago, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (CPA) in The Hague ruled that China "has no right" of sovereignty over disputed territories. According to the international organization, Beijing has also violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines by blocking its fishermen and building artificial islands in its Exclusive Economic Zone. Beijing refused to take part in the trial and did not comply with the ruling, which however is not binding.
Having risen to power only two weeks before the Hague ruling, Rodrigo Duterte adopted a more conciliatory approach to Beijing, obtaining loans, exchanges and investments. The president often praises the Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and in February he caused a sensation when he jokingly offered him the Philippines as a new province.
Analysts point out that the Philippines, the historical ally of the United States, represents a fundamental front in the struggle between Beijing and Washington for supremacy in the Pacific. During the journey of Xi, Manila hopes to sign agreements and obtain the 24 billion US dollars in investments and loans for infrastructure projects promised by Beijing two years ago. However, at the moment only a small part of the sum has entered the coffers of Manila, prompting critics to say that Duterte has been deceived.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says Chinese investments in the Philippines have increased more than five times in the first six months of 2018, after a 67% expansion in the previous year. Bilateral trade has increased by more than 10% over the last two years. Chinese investors have poured large sums of money into online games, real estate, services and holdings in existing Filipino companies, but not in large-scale infrastructure or production.