Duterte skips opening ceremony of Belt and Road Forum

May 14, 2017 - 6:30 AM
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Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and his partner Honeylet descend the steps on their arrival in Beijing. (Malacanang photo)

BEIJING, China — (UPDATE 3 – 4:02 p.m.) President Rodrigo  Duterte arrived in Beijing Saturday to attend the Belt and Road Forum  for International Cooperation but was a no-show at the opening ceremony Sunday morning, which was led by Chinese President Xi Jnping.

The Department of Foreign Affairs played down, however, the President’s absence from the opening rites, saying Duterte was working on preparations for his meetings on Monday, May 15.

“The main events where the President is scheduled to make interventions are at the Leaders’ Roundtable Discussions on 15 May. The President is preparing for his key meetings tomorrow,” DFA said in a statement Sunday.

“The President looks forward to exchanging ideas with his fellow Leaders on generating growth and tackling global economic challenges,” DFA added.

Mr. Duterte is also expected to have bilateral meetings on Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang. “As for today (May 14), the President has a number of bilateral meetings and is scheduled to attend the gala dinner and a cultural event later today,” said DFA.

A copy of Duterte’s official schedule shows his first activity for Sunday is a bilateral meeting with Mongolian Prime Minister Jargatulygn Erdenebat.

He is also scheduled to attend the welcome dinner and the cultural gala performance Sunday night.

Duterte is one of 29 heads of state attending the Forum.

Also seen at the opening ceremony was Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The opening ceremony was followed by a high-level dialogue.

Duterte was given the red carpet treatment on his arrival in Beijing, where he was welcomed by officials of the Chinese capital well as Chinese Counsellor He Rulong and Ambassador to the Philippine Zhao Jianhua, who were joined by Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana.

Duterte’s China visit is the last leg of a weeklong swing that saw him attend the World Economic Forum on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and then head to Hong Kong on a working visit.

He is accompanied on this trip by his partner Honeylet and their daughter Veronica.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterras, who is also attending the forum, hoped the participants could extra utmost value of China’s initiative to attain inclusive and strong global economy.

”I’m expecting to participate in the discussion to see how we can extract the maximum possible value of the Belt and Road Initiative for global inclusive and sustainable development,” Guterras said in a statement.

He described the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jingping in 2013, as extremely useful and a very important instrument to meet the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Multilateralism is the solution to global problems. And China has been a strong pillar of multilateralism,” the UN official said.

“When we look at BRI, we see a very important contribution to this solidarity in addressing global problems with international cooperation, where China plays a very central role. So I’m very happy to have the chance to participate in this Belt and Road summit,” he added.

Guterres will be joined by 89 principals and representatives from 61 international organizations, including World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and the International Monetary Fund managing director of Christine Lagarde.

China meets with UNESCO

Meanwhile, China and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have agreed to enhance cooperation on the Belt and Road.

Meeting with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong said people-to-people bonds, one of the key areas to advance the Belt and Road Initiative, closely match the ideas promoted by UNESCO.

Bokova is in Beijing to attend the May 14-15 forum.

China and UNESCO should strengthen cooperation on Belt and Road construction, and carry forward people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations to contribute to the building of a community of shared future for mankind, Liu said.

Expressing gratitude to China for its long-time support to UNESCO, Bokova said many initiatives proposed by China have set good examples for the international community, and UNESCO is willing to strengthen pragmatic cooperation with China in the fields of the Belt and Road, and jointly help realize the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.