PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has accepted the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit China in April 2019.
In his visit to Malacañang on Tuesday, Xi announced he had invited Duterte during their bilateral meeting to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China.
In their final joint statement on Wednesday, the two countries confirmed that Duterte had accepted Xi’s invitation.
“President Xi Jinping appreciated the warm and friendly hospitality accorded to him and his delegation by President Duterte and the Philippine government, and extended an invitation to President Duterte to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held in Beijing, China in April 2019. President Duterte accepted the invitation with pleasure,” the statement read.
Should Duterte push through with this trip, it would be his fourth time to visit China since taking the presidency in 2016.
The Philippines-China relations have been strained by a longstanding territorial rift over the West Philippine Sea.
China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea includes key portions of the West Philippine Sea, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated it in July 2016, favoring the Philippines’ claims in the area.
China, however, has refused to recognize the ruling.
Duterte, meanwhile, has chosen to set aside the landmark ruling and engaged Asia’s largest economy in bilateral talks.
Xi was the first Chinese leader to visit the Philippines in 13 years. He left Manila Wednesday afternoon after the two countries signed 29 agreements, including a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on oil and gas development.