China agrees to buy $1.7 bn in Philippine products

Businessmen from China agreed to buy $1.7 billion in Philippine products this year, the Chinese embassy said Wednesday, in a one-off arrangement reflecting warming ties under firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte.

Since coming to power last year Duterte has sought greater trade as well as billions of dollars in investment and aid from the world's second largest economy, as the Philippines seeks to modernise its crumbling infrastructure.

Under the agreement signed by businessmen from both countries, China will import Philippine goods such as fruits, fisheries, chemicals and mineral products, the Chinese embassy said in a statement.

These will be new imports and on top of existing Philippine shipments to China, the embassy added.

The accord is one of the results of Duterte's landmark visit to China in October, the statement said.

On his visit, Duterte declared he was distancing himself from the Philippines' longtime ally the United States and seeking closer ties with Beijing.

To that end, he controversially set aside Manila's festering territorial conflict with its more powerful Asian neighbour over parts of the South China Sea, a vital sea lane and fishing ground that is believed to hold vast mineral resources.

"Let us not fight about ownership or sovereignty at this time because things are going great for my country," Duterte said on Monday in reference to China.

Even before Duterte's overtures, China was already the second largest trading partner of the Philippines, accounting for 13.6 percent of its total trade in 2015, government figures showed.

The Philippines exported $6.175 billion worth of goods to China while importing $11.47 billion worth in 2015.