President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping (File photo)

MANILA – The scheduled meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 8 will only be held virtually, Malacañang said on Friday.

This, after Duterte announced Thursday that he is set to hold a dialogue with Xi next week in light of the possible spillover of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to Asia, including the Philippines and China.

Kagabi po, si President Duterte mismo ang nag-announce na meron siyang meeting with China officials. At ang alam po natin ay online po ang meeting na ito sa darating po na April 8 (President Duterte announced last night that he will have a meeting with Chinese officials. What we know is the meeting on April 8 will be held online),” acting Deputy Presidential Spokesperson and Communications Undersecretary Michel Kristian Ablan said in a virtual presser.

Ablan said Xi had initiated the scheduled talks with Duterte.

He, however, was not privy to the possible issues that Duterte and Xi might discuss.

Ang nag-initiate po nito ay ang gobyerno ng Tsina (The Chinese government initiated it. Insofar as we’re concerned, this meeting is still in the preparatory state. Kung ano ang magiging issues at matters na idi-discuss ng world leaders na ito ay malalaman natin (With regard to the issues and matters that the two world leaders might discuss, we will know) in the coming days,” Ablan said.

In a speech delivered in Lapu-Lapu City on Thursday, Duterte said China “would not sit idly,” in case Russia resorts to nuclear war amid its ongoing tensions with Ukraine.

Duterte said China’s possible interference would create a “serious problem,” as it might spell trouble for the Philippines.

Duterte earlier said the Philippines would remain neutral on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Malacañang, however, said Duterte may serve as a peacemaker between Russia and Ukraine, should world leaders ask for his help, considering the Philippines’ “neutral position and constitutionally-mandated foreign policy of peace with all nations.”

The Philippines is one of the nations that voted for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on the scale of humanitarian woes caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UNGA resolution calls on all parties to provide full protection for civilians fleeing armed conflict and violence and ensure safe access for humanitarian aid among those who are in Ukraine and neighboring countries. (PNA)