• Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony. (Photo : Getty Images)

China and the Philippines had an agreement on $3.7 billion worth of projects for boosting cooperation and highlighting the improvement in their formerly frosty relations.

Gao Hucheng, the Commerce Minister of China, met with a Cabinet delegation from the Philippines. He said after the meeting that the projects are aimed at "improving people's living standards."

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There are no specific details yet on the projects. It is reported though that a formal agreement on the implementation of projects would be signed before the Philippine delegation leaves Beijing.

The Philippines currently has tense ties with China over the longstanding South China Sea territorial disputes, which escalated under the Aquino presidency.

Last October, Duterte repeatedly criticized the United States, which is a former colonial power and a traditional ally of the country, while praising China. He said that China is an Asian nation that shared its values, understood its development needs and respects Philippine sovereignty.

The officials from the Philippines stated that during the aforementioned meeting, the two sides signed deals amounting to $13.5 billion. President Xi Jinping had also committed more than $9 billion in low-interest loans to the Philippines.

The tensions between the two countries ran high in July last year due to the Philippines winning an arbitration ruling, declaring that China's maritime claims in the South China Sea are invalid.

China refused to recognize the ruling and has warned the U.S. as well as other countries not to get involved in the territorial row.

Duterte has expressed his desire to cooperate with China on projects in the area. He largely avoided to mention the arbitration decision in order to improve ties.

According to reports, the two sides also agreed to a "speedy resumption" with regard to economic and trade cooperation, which had been postponed since 2012 amid rising tensions.

Duterte is planning to attend an international conference in China on May. This conference is about the revitalization of the ancient Silk Road trade routes through vast investments in infrastructure.