Published: Thu, October 13, 2016
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Philippine President Duterte to visit China next week

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will pay a state visit to China from October 18 to 21 at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said on Wednesday. He has said, however, that he'll chart a foreign policy not dependent on Washington.

Delfin Lorenzana said in a news conference last week that he has explained to the president the value of the annual military maneuvers with the Americans in responding to natural disasters and in potential security crises.

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte and about 250 business executives from Manila will pay a visit to China next week, adding more strain to the country's fraying ties with the United States.

The World Health Organization said 20.6 percent of the Philippine population smoked as of 2013, 10 years after the tobacco regulation act was passed.

It comes days after Manila announced it was suspending annual joint military exercises with the US.

"But we need not really, you know, [to] break or abrogate existing treaties because they say that [these] would provide us with the umbrella", Duterte said.

Around 17 million people, or almost a third of the adult population, smoke in the Philippines, according to a 2014 report by Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, - the second highest in the region after Indonesia.

Duterte on USA alliance: 'Do you really think we need it?' "Some of the things are beyond my control, beyond the US control, but what I can tell you is the USA has a string of commitment to the Philippines, to the people of the Philippines, to the economic well-being of the Philippines".

The president, who is set to visit China next week under efforts to improve ties despite disputes over the South China Sea, has nonetheless insisted that the Philippines intends to maintain military ties with the U.S. He also wants US counterterrorism forces to leave his country's south, saying their presence was inflaming restiveness among minority Muslims.

The President, who lashed at US President Barack Obama and other US officials for criticizing his deadly war on drugs, had initially said that he might cut ties with them but eventually retracted his pronouncement.

Coinciding with that has been a rapprochement with China, despite the cool relations the two countries have had, dogged in recent years by mistrust over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.

But at the same time he has not totally burnt his bridges with United States as he is due to visit Washington's close ally Japan on October 25 to consolidate ties with Tokyo.

Duterte has been moving closer to China and away from the US, saying he wants to steer an "independent foreign policy".

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