China's Xi eyes joint bid to boost ties with Philippines under Duterte

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the International Forum on the New Silk Road in Warsaw, Poland, on June 20.
Chinese President Xi Jinping at the International Forum on the New Silk Road in Warsaw, Poland, on June 20.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Beijing would like to improve relations with Manila through joint efforts, with bilateral ties facing important opportunities for growth, President Xi Jinping told the Philippines' new president, who was sworn in on Thursday (June 30).

Rodrigo Duterte, 71, took the oath of office at Malacanang Palace in Manila on Thursday, becoming the 16th president of the Southeast Asian nation of 102 million people.

Ties between the two countries have nose-dived since the arbitration case over the South China Sea dispute was brought by outgoing Philippine president Benigno Aquino in 2013.

Unlike his predecessor, Duterte, the first local mayor to be directly elected as president of the Philippines, is expected to take a pragmatic approach to the South China Sea dispute with China, analysts have said.

Xi said in a congratulatory letter to Duterte that China and the Philippines are neighbours, and being friendly is a tradition of the two countries that has endured for more than 1,000 years. This course is the right one and should be adhered to, he said.

In his inaugural speech, Duterte promised a relentless and sustained fight against corruption, criminality and illegal drugs, but did not mention his government's policy toward China.