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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while answering questions during a news conference upon arrival from a trip to Myanmar and Thailand in Manila, Philippines, March 23, 2017.

Because of our friendship with China and because we value your friendship I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag.”

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has canceled a planned visit to an island the Philippines claims in the disputed South China Sea, after Beijing warned him against the visit.

The brash Philippine leader last week announced his plan to raise the Philippine flag in the island of Thitu and fortify it with barracks, setting off alarm bells.

“Because of our friendship with China and because we value your friendship I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag,” Duterte said in a speech before the Filipino community in Riyadh late Wednesday.

“They said, do not go there in the meantime, just do not go there please. I will correct myself because we value our friendship with China,” he said, adding that he might just send his son to the island.

Duterte said Beijing warned him that “there will likely be trouble” if every head of state of contending parties will go to the disputed islands and plant flags.

The popular president is on a week-long state visit in the Middle East to facilitate trade and investments, and meet with Filipinos overseas.

The Middle East is the second largest source of remittances, with more than one million Filipino workers sending home US$7.6 billion in last year, government data showed.

 

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