Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have agreed to work together on oil and gas exploration and cooperate on infrastructure projects — as Beijing continues to defend the militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

In a sign the two countries are moving closer together as tensions increase between China and the United States, Beijing said its state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation would take up joint exploration in “relevant sea areas” of the South China Sea, CNN reported.

Xi met with Duterte in Manila on Tuesday for the start of a two-day visit. The two sides announced 29 agreements as Duterte takes a pragmatic approach to his neighbor. Others in the Philippines protested the Xi visit.

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