MANILA (UPDATE)—President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Beijing, China late Wednesday night as global anticipation rose over his upcoming meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the South China Sea.
The plane carrying Duterte and his delegation touched down at Beijing Capital International Airport at 11:11 p.m., Malacañang said.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Jiao Jinhua welcomed Duterte.
The Philippine leader's arrival marks the start of a nearly weeklong stay, which is geared towards easing tensions in the resource-rich South China Sea.
Duterte earlier said "the time has come" for the Philippines to raise its rights over the disputed waters, which China claims in near entirety.
“I’m going to China to talk. Did I not tell you before, that before my term ends, I will be talking about the [South] China Sea?” Duterte earlier said.
Critics have long slammed Duterte for refusing to invoke Manila’s July 2016 victory in a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal which invalidated China's sweeping claims over the South China Sea.
"What is important is as he promised the Filipino people, he would raise this issue at the proper time. And this is the proper time,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said.
Analysts have described this trip as Duterte's "most critical" yet as the Philippines seeks concessions over the long-disputed waterway.
Duterte also plans to discuss a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea, and an oil and gas sharing agreement with Beijing.
He earlier welcomed China's proposal of a 60-40 joint oil and gas exploration deal, in favor of the Philippines.
The President is also set to travel to Guangzhou to support the Gilas Pilipinas at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Joining the President’s official delegation are Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Prospero De Vera III and Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero.—With reports from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News