By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte was set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing today to discuss conflict issues and economic cooperation, the presidential palace said yesterday.

The two leaders will also witness the signing of several agreements on education, science and technology, and economic and social development.

China might raise the issue of the Chinese-dominated Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO), which China deems illegal, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said at a televised briefing in Beijing yesterday.

Mr. Duterte earlier said he would invoke the 2016 arbitral ruling that voided China’s claims to more than 80% of the South China Sea.

He said he would also bring up delays in the South China Sea Code of Conduct, and raise a planned joint oil exploration in the disputed waterway. Mr. Duterte had said he favored a 60-40 sharing in the Philippines’ favor.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development in the South China Sea during Mr. Xi’s visit to Manila in November last year.

“The authority granted to the president is limited to entering into agreements with foreign-owned corporations,” Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a senior research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center, said in an email.

He said the Philippine Constitution bars any joint exploration deal with foreign countries including China. “A joint exploration agreement with a Chinese-owned corporation can possibly be sanctioned by the charter, but this will definitely be questioned in the Supreme Court given that most Chinese corporations are mere proxies of the Chinese government,” he added.

The Department of Energy banned all exploration and drilling activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea starting in 2014 pending the sea dispute with China.

Mr. Duterte was also scheduled to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday afternoon before he leaves for the port city of Guanzhou to support the Philippines’ men’s basketball team in its game against Italy at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.