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South China Sea

Duterte stresses soft approach toward China in last policy speech

Critics bristle at Manila backing down to Beijing in South China Sea dispute

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, said he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for help with supplying COVID-19 vaccines. (Source photos by Kyodo/Xinhua and Reuters) 

MANILA/HONG KONG -- In his final state of the nation speech on Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte suggested that he is sticking to his conciliatory stance toward China.

The outgoing president expressed his intent to keep an equal distance from other countries, saying he will "continue to work with all nations and seek partnerships that work." Critics think Duterte is afraid to get tough with China over the territorial dispute in the South China Sea while the Philippines remains dependent on China for economic assistance and COVID-19 vaccines.

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