(Bloomberg) -- In a sign of China’s growing influence in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s political party is holding a two-day summit in Manila to develop policies that imitate the Communist Party’s anti-poverty programs.
Duterte’s ruling PDP-Laban party wants to follow China’s Communist Party in boosting opportunities in the countryside and assessing leaders based on the number of people they lift out of poverty, Philippine House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who serves as the party’s secretary-general, said in a speech Tuesday night. Two officials from China’s Communist Party briefed Philippine officials on President Xi Jinping’s programs on Feb. 27.
“Let us be thankful that the Communist Party of China is here with us,” Alvarez said.
Soon after Duterte took office in June 2016, the Philippine leader announced a separation with the U.S. and embraced closer ties with China and Russia. He has since downplayed his nation’s legal victory over Beijing in a South China Sea territorial dispute, while China has responded with $24 billion worth of funding and investment pledges.
If China wants, it can just add Philippines as one of its provinces “like Fujian,” Duterte said on Feb. 19 to an audience of Filipino-Chinese businessmen. “Province of Philippines, Republic of China,” Duterte added before an applauding crowd.
Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the remarks were made in jest, and that the Philippines stands by its rights to disputed features in the South China Sea.
Xi assured Duterte that China won’t build anything on the Scarborough Shoal, which has been a flash point between the two countries. Still, China had completed an air and naval base on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef, according to photos published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In other indicators of China’s burgeoning presence in the Southeast Asian nation, Philippine state television last year began rebroadcasting programs from China Global Television Network. Immigration officials are also being trained to speak Mandarin since China became the country’s second highest source of tourists last year, eclipsing the US and Japan.
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