By Catherine S Valente /Manila Times
President Rodrigo Duterte will no longer visit Fujian province to inaugurate the school building there built in honour of his mother as his trip to Beijing has been cut short, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
In a pre-departure briefing on the president’s official visit to China, Foreign Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said the president’s Fujian visit had been postponed to a “more appropriate time.”
“It’s postponed… It’s not appropriate at this time… It was just postponed for a more appropriate time in the future,” Montealegre told reporters.
Duterte had announced he would visit Fujian to attend the inauguration of a school named after his mother, Soledad.
Chief of Presidential Protocol Robert Borje said the decision to postpone the visit to Fujian was more of a logistical issue.
“Sometimes the window shortens for reasons that are maybe logistical in nature, sometimes it’s substantive, sometimes it’s also due to domestic issues,” Borje said during the same Palace news briefing.
“But for this particular visit, there was a plan and then the recommendation now is to move it at a later date because it’s more appropriate to be done at a later date and not at this particular time,” he added.
The president, who will arrive in Beijing on August 28, will hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping the next day, where he promised to bring up the arbitral award regarding a dispute between the Philippines and China in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. The arbitral award largely favoured Manila over Beijing.
Montealegre said Duterte and Xi were set to sign agreements covering education, science and technology, and economic and social development.
“Both leaders will also witness the signing of a number of co-operative bilateral documents and memorandum of understanding, which are all aimed to further increase the breadth and depth of our co-operation between the Philippines and China,” he added.
The DFA official said Duterte was looking forward to his fifth bilateral meeting with Xi, and to discussing issues of mutual interest with his counterpart.
“President Duterte looks forward to exchanging views with President Xi on how to accelerate the pace of our functional co-operation in terms of concrete projects, as well as on issues of mutual interest to both countries,” Montealegre added. “This will be the fifth visit of the President to China. In Beijing, the president will hold a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping to discuss the accomplishments, as well as the shared goals of the Philippines and China under our Comprehensive Strategic Co-operation,” he said.
Duterte earlier announced that he would be flying to Beijing to finally raise the arbitral ruling that was handed down in The Hague with Xi.
Montealegre said it would be up to the president on how to bring the issue up.
He added that the DFA was not aware if anyone was trying to stop the president from talking about the landmark decision during the China visit.
“I think that’s the president’s prerogative to discuss the particular issue. At the same time, he already made pronouncement on this particular matter. So, it’s the president’s call to discuss this specific issue,” Montealegre said.
According to him, Duterte would also pay a courtesy call to Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.
“The president and Vice President Wang are expected to discuss ways to increase trade and investment and deepen the friendship between our countries,” he said.
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