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Duterte says China's Xi won't allow his removal from office
[MANILA] Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had provided him with a personal assurance that Beijing would not allow him to be removed from office.
“The assurances of Xi are very encouraging: We will not allow you to be taken out from your office and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs,” Mr Duterte said in a speech on Tuesday.
Mr Duterte is approaching the end of the second year of his six-year term as president. While the Philippine constitution bars presidents from serving more than one term, Mr Duterte has repeatedly rejected calls from his allies to try to seek another term. He has even suggested that he would like to cut short his time in office.
Mr Duterte, who did not say when Mr Xi made the remarks, met with Mr Xi on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province in China on April 10. It was Mr Duterte’s third meeting with Mr Xi since he took office at the end of June 2016.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, leader of the opposition Liberal Party, questioned whether Mr Xi’s assurances were the reason why Mr Duterte was making use of substantial Chinese loans, and his reluctance to criticise Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea.
“Is China support for this administration to ensure its iron clad grip on power? Whose interest is being pursued by depending on China?” Mr Pangilinan said in a statement.
Mr Duterte spent most of his hour-long speech on Tuesday afternoon aboard a navy vessel justifying his decision to set aside a July 2016 international court ruling dismissing China’s claims to more than 80 per cent of the South China Sea in a case brought by his predecessor Benigno Aquino.
Recalling how “the ever cool guy” Mr Xi had convinced him to focus on restoring relations between the Philippines and China, Mr Duterte said the more “you remain meek and humble” with the likes of Mr Xi, the more you stand to gain.
The brash Philippine leader, who has presided over a deadly drug war that has killed thousands, said his mindset regarding the South China Sea was to get whatever he can, such as a joint exploration agreement for an estimated four trillion of cubic feet of natural gas.
And despite his past praise for US President Donald Trump, Mr Duterte lambasted US “hypocrisy”, saying he doesn’t want to deal with Washington before adding that he was “playing geopolitics with everybody”.
In what could be a prelude to forging military ties with China, Mr Duterte said that if the Philippines ever ran out of soldiers, he would ask Mr Xi to send over three battalions of fully-geared troops.