Photo: AFP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte continued his policy of forging closer ties with Beijing, it was reported Tuesday, expressing optimism regarding territory disputes in the waters off the coast of the Philippines.

“We will allow [China] the sufficient period to sort out things and I’m sure that in the end, China will be fair and the equity will be distributed,” the president was quoted by Philstar Global as saying.

Duterte continued that he expects Filipinos will come around to his view that China is a “good neighbor.”

“I cannot talk about—well, elaborate these things now. They are in the blueprint. But in the days to come, we would realize that China, after all, is really a good neighbor,” he said.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte’s foreign policy has been defined in part by a pivot away from long-time treaty ally the United States towards closer ties with Beijing. Notably, the president has been reluctant to challenge Beijing on the issue of disputed territory in the South China Sea.

It was also reported on Tuesday that polls show the majority of Filipinos are deeply dissatisfied with the government’s South China Sea policy.

The survey, conducted in June and published last week, found most respondents would like to see more vocal opposition to militarization of disputed territory and construction of artificial islands, as well as a strengthening of the navy.

In contrast to Duterte’s apparent trust in Beijing, 53% of respondents had “little trust” in China. Only 18% said that China would be trustworthy in negotiations.

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