July 18 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is avoiding criticism over Chinese expansion in the South China Sea, and has instead described Beijing as a good neighbor.
Duterte made the remarks Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a Chinese-funded bridge.
"I'm sure that in the end, China will be fair and the equity will be distributed," he said, according to the Philippine Star.
Duterte also said the world's second-largest economy should be allowed a "sufficient period to sort things out" first.
In addition to the bridge construction, China has offered loans for Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program.
The Philippine leader said there are no ulterior motives behind the bilateral deal.
"I just like to tell everybody that in all of these discussions, China never asked for any, not even a one square [foot] of real estate in this country," he said, adding discussions will ensue at the right moment.
"We have promised to deal with the problem from the President himself, President Xi of the People's Republic of China, that we will discuss this at some other time, as China has to deal with individually bilateral relations and issues."
Most Filipinos may not be happy with Duterte's statements, however. A local survey showed eight of ten support a tougher stance against China and its presence in the West Philippine Sea.
Kyodo News reported Tuesday Duterte called China a "good neighbor," and said his less confrontational position aligns with the policy he established when he assumed the presidency.