KONFRONTASI-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has arrived in Beijing as he seeks to salvage his policy towards China, which left his country's sovereignty more vulnerable to foreign incursion, exposed his neighbours to a new level of brinkmanship in the South China Sea, and embarrassed him before his domestic critics.
Duterte and several top Philippine officials, including Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, arrived in the Chinese capital late on Wednesday for his scheduled bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday.
He is also scheduled to hold meetings on Friday with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. It is Duterte's fifth visit to China.
Despite his huge domestic popularity and great affection for China, Duterte is under growing pressure to push back at its growing maritime assertiveness.
After avoiding the issue for three years, he has promised to raise with Xi a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated China's claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
A boat-sinking incident in June involving Filipino fishermen and a Chinese vessel within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone has also has enraged the public, and highlighted the Duterte's close relations with Beijing.
Before his trip, the owner of the Chinese trawler that hit and sank the fishing boat apologised on Thursday for the incident, but added that it was an "unintentional mistake". They also promised to compensate the Filipino fishermen for the damage.
Duterte's spokesman, who was travelling with him to Beijing, said the apology had been accepted.
Duterte's trip comes amid a recent rise in tension on multiple fronts, with Chinese vessels challenging energy assets and sea boundaries of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, prompting warnings and rebukes by the United States, which accuses China of "coercive interference" and holding hostage $2.5 trillion of oil and gas.
China called that "warrantless criticism" with distorted facts.
Duterte's motivation, experts say, is to tackle public unease over his refusal to speak out against a deeply mistrusted China and frustrations among a defence establishment that has started to find its own voice.