The strength of bilateral relations is underlined by the state visit of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to China on 1 and 3 September 2004, and Chinese President Hu Jintao to the Philippines on 26 and 28 April 2005. Heydarian, R. (2019c) How Duterte`s pivot to China could harm him politically at home. South China Morning Post. May 4th. Available at: www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3008642/how-philippine-president-rodrigo-dutertes-stubborn-pivot-china. Manila and Beijing became twin cities on November 14, 2005. As part of the agreement signed by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, the two cities agreed to increase exchanges and cooperation in the areas of economy, culture, education, urban planning, sport, health and sanitation. Ranada, P. (2018b) To prove the fruits of the PH-China friendship, Roque Fischer brings a press release. It`s a rapper. June 11th. Available at: www.rappler.com/nation/204647-harry-roque-zambales-fishermen-china-coast-guard-scarborough-shoal.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the exchange of the agreements signed during their bilateral meeting on Thursday. Maitem, J. (2019) The Philippine defence chief is calling for a “diplomatic protest” after the Chinese ship sank fishing boats in disputed waters. South China Morning Post. June 12th. Available at: www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3014237/philippines-slams-suspected-chinese-vessel-sinking-fishing. Mangosing, F. (2019) Philippines, United States are planning major joint military exercises in 2020. Inquirer. May 8th.
Available at: globalnation.inquirer.net/175192/philippines-us-plan-bigger-joint-army-exercises-in-2020. Meanwhile, President Duterte and President Xi attended the signing of six bilateral agreements between the Philippines and China. The last agreement signed was the preferred buyer`s credit contract on the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, signed by Finance Minister Carlos Dominguez III and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua. The following two bilateral documents were also signed: Santos, V. O. (2019) The Philippines Just Became More Authoritarian, Thanks to the People. The New York Times. May 24th. Available at: www.nytimes.com/2019/05/24/opinion/philippines-duterte-election-senate.html. The nature of the Philippines` foreign policy towards China in the South China Sea is mysterious. The same year after his swearing-in as President of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30, 2016, Duterte not only attracted international attention with his fervent rhetoric, but also confusion by detangling his government from the geopolitical agenda of the Aquino administration (de Castro, 2019).
Contrary to the more confrontational policy of his predecessor (de Castro, 2017,, he announced at the Philippine-Chinese Forum on Trade and Investment (Duterte in Beijing, 2016) the “military and economic separation” of the Philippines from the United States and significantly downplayed his diplomatic victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration by calling the 2016 arbitration on Beijing`s claims in the South China Sea a “four-angle piece of paper” (Duterte zu CCTV, 2016). But closer military relations between the United States and the Philippines, in the form of bilateral defense exercises, military aid and intelligence exchange to bolster maritime security against Chinese threats (De Castro, 2017), appear to “contradict Duterte`s pro-Beijing foreign policy” (Heydarian 2019). In addition to the more tense military relations between the United States and the Philippines, contradictions are also noticeable in other areas. While Foreign Minister Cayetano and the military filed a diplomatic protest or complaint in June 2018 against the harassment of Philippine navy personnel by a Chinese chopper in the second Thomas Shoal, Duterte said he was not aware of the incident in response to Chinese interests (Elemia, 2018; Esmaquel II, 2018).