In yet another sign of the Philippines turning toward China, the country’s finance minister, in an interview on Friday, outlined the new government’s intention to looking for infrastructure funding from Beijing.
Carlos Dominguez, finance secretary in President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, said that the last administration, led by President Benigno Aquino III, “hardly spoke to them (China).”
“Now we are going to talk to them.” Duterte, who was inaugurated on June 30 and has since made several remarks that suggest a fundamental recalculation of the Philippine alliance with the United States, will visit China later this month.
“It’s time for us to lower the tensions,” Dominguez, speaking in Washington, said on Friday. “You know the Chinese, they don’t like to lose face. Just as long as they don’t lose face it’s OK to continue arguing with them.”
“We would like to direct them towards the infrastructure programme that we are embarking upon, and you know we welcome them,” Dominguez added.
Referencing the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), where the Philippines is a member, Dominguez noted: “That’s going to be a big source of funding for infrastructure spending.”
Duterte will be in China from October 19 to 21, is first visit to that country since his inauguration and the first high-level official contact between leaders of the two countries since a tribunal based at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in Manila’s favor concerning disputed maritime territory in the South China Sea.
Per protocol, Duterte is likely to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping while in China. Should that meeting happen, Duterte will have met Xi before sitting down with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Though Obama and Duterte met informally at the recent ASEAN summit in Vientiane, Laos, a formal bilateral meeting was cancelled after the Philippine president called Obama a “son of a bitch.”
The United States and the Philippines share a mutual defense treaty which was signed in 1951 and forms the cornerstone of their current alliance.
Duterte’s remarks on the alliance, including his recent decision to notify the United States that bilateral exercises would cease, are a source of uncertainty for Washington.
In addition to the Duterte government’s interest in soliciting greater economic opportunities from China, Duterte has suggested that he would expand cooperation with Beijing to include security cooperation.
“I would have alliances on trade and commerce with China,” Duterte remarked in late September.