Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is set to visit China in May 2017 for the second time signalling that ties between the two countries are getting closer. The Chinese foreign ministry said the Filipino leader would make an official tour to China to coincide with the "One Belt, One Road" conference.
Though authorities in Manila are yet to officially confirm the proposed visit, Chinese delegates indicate Duterte has said he would be in China in the coming months. The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs has said their staff are yet to be made aware of Duterte's latest overtures.
"I will come to Beijing in May to attend the One Belt, One Road international cooperation summit forum, and I look forward to meeting President Xi Jinping again," China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said quoting Duterte. The Philippines president is expected to be part of the multinational summit, which would make it his second visit after taking office.
The development comes shortly after senior Chinese foreign ministry delegates visited the Philippines to hold crucial bilateral talks with Duterte.
Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Beijing foreign ministry, has said the two sides even had "candid and in-depth exchanges" over the South China Sea regional dispute.
The firebrand Filipino leader has partially re-calibrated his country's ties with China and dragged the Philippines away from the close ties it enjoyed with the US. He has also scaled down the Philippines' earlier claims against Beijing in favour of more investments. When Duterte made his first visit to China in October, the communist government in Beijing agreed to pump in $24bn worth of funds.
Duterte said at that time: "There are so many things in my country which I would like to implement, but for lack of the capital stock. If we can have the things you have given to other countries by the way of assistance, we'd also like to be a part of it and to be a part of the greater plans of China about the whole of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia."