PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is not taking sides in the trade feud between the United States (US) and China, Malacañang said Wednesday, April 11.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said Duterte refused to favor either the US or China in a trade war that might trigger economic repercussions and could hurt not just the two powerful nations but even other countries as well.

Roque said that during Duterte's bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hainan, China on Tuesday, April 10, the Philippine leader's position was to avoid partisanship as much as possible, with regard to the trade spat.

He, however, confirmed that Duterte indeed asked China to "defend the East," amid the trade war between the US and China.

Sought for clarification about Duterte's remark, Roque said it did not pertain to any particular country.

"Everyone basically in the meeting was talking about globalization, trade liberalization and of course, Asia was benefitting greatly from globalization and trade liberalization," the Palace official said.

"So basically it was an endorsement of China's position that the world trading system should be governed by the rules-based WTO (World Trade Organization) system, and that there should be no obstacle to further globalization and liberalization," he added.

But as the US-China trade war worsens, Roque said: "He (Duterte) basically reiterated that we're not siding (with either of the two countries)."

Duterte flew to China on Monday, April 9, to attend the Boao Forum for Asia that was held in Hainan, China on Tuesday, April 10.

During tge forum, Xi told his audience at the Boao Forum about his plans to further open up and liberalize Beijing's economy.

"China's opening up will definitely enter a whoe new phase," the Chinese leader was quoted as saying. "I want to clearly tell everyone that China's open door will not be closed; it will only be opened wider." (SunStar Philippines)