Duterte defends anti-drug campaign, closer ties with China

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Beijing, April 10 (IANS) Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday defended his controversial anti-drug campaign as well as closer ties with China after years of maritime tensions, in a speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, on China’s Hainan Island.

“Drug trafficking, terrorism and corruption were rotten social diseases that devoured my country,” Duterte said in a plenary session in which his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde were also present, Efe news reported.

“With China, we stand together in the war on criminality and illegal drug trade. We are shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism,” said Duterte, who also defended the negotiation and rapprochement in maritime disputes with Beijing and other nations in the region.

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“Make no mistake, there can be no progress without stability in Asia’s lands and waters,” he said and insisted that “the Philippines and China are partners in the building of a much-needed infrastructure. We are building bridges of greater understanding between our people”.

The Philippines leader, known for his aggressive statements against the US, the EU and the international community in the beginning when he assumed office, stressed that his government proposed to spend between 5 and 7 per cent of its national budget on infrastructure as part of the national development plan.

The programme is aimed at reducing poverty in the Philippines from 22 per cent in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022, Duterte said.

He highlighted the start-up of a three-year rolling programme — “Build, Build, Build” — amounting to over $69 billion in infrastructure projects until 2022.

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According to Duterte, the country will have more highly qualified and specialized Filipinos by 2022. He also highlighted the important and growing role that Asia was acquiring, which could be dominant by the middle of this century.

–IANS

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