Duterte: PH enjoying relationship with China
The Philippines has now “normalized” with China and is “enjoying the best of our relationship.”
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday hailed the country’s revitalized relationship with China in the presence of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was visiting Davao City.
“First is that we are enjoying the best of our relationship,” the President said during the birthday celebration of former Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in the city, where Wang was a guest.
He added: “We have normalized our relationship and I thank you China for all the things that you have done for me.”
Upon assuming office on June 30, 2016, the President decided to foster closer economic and defense ties with China.
He temporarily set aside the country’s territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea, saying the Philippines could not possibly win a war against China.
Instead, he decided to pursue bilateral dialogue with China to manage the territorial conflict while asking China to “temper its behavior” in the disputed territory.
This came amid reports that China had been warning ships and aircraft that were getting too close to the artificial islands it had built on islets it was claiming.
Improved trade ties
On Sunday night, the President said he was “very happy” with the improved trade relations between the Philippines and China.
“I’d like to assure the foreign minister that the Philippines is very happy with our present trade and our whatever agricultural consciousness of our race, and the fact that you have provided livelihood at least to a lot of people if you think about the importations that you have allowed my country,” he added.
Wang also expressed satisfaction over the improved relations between China and the Philippines after President Duterte came to power.
Both Wang and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also noted the friendship between China and Philippines at their joint press conference on Monday.
“Many of our people share the same ancestry,” said Wang, who was in Davao for the inauguration of the Chinese Consulate and for the signing of bilateral agreements with Philippine officials.
Not a threat to PH
“China will never be a rival for the Philippines, not even a threat. Since President Duterte took office, he had upheld an independent foreign policy and overcome foreign interference,” said the Chinese official.
“We will always be your most sincere and trustworthy friend,” he added.
Wang said his country was keen on pushing for a joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea.
“China is ready to further discuss about joint development of oil and gas in South China Sea, to shelve differences and pursue regional development,” he said.
Wang said that such a joint venture could also set an example for similar cooperation between China and other countries in the region.
Code of conduct
“China is ready to work with the Philippines and the countries in the region to enhance cooperation, overcome external disruptions and intervention and conclude COC (code of conduct) discussions at another date so that COC could truly serve as a stabilizer for the South China Sea,” he said.
Asked whether the COC on the South China Sea was legally binding, Wang said China would strictly abide and firmly implement any document it had signed, whether it was legally binding or not.
Locsin said the Philippines was supporting China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying Beijing’s success in the development strategy would also benefit Manila.
Wang said China would support the Philippine development plan and would have it dovetailed with the Belt and Road Initiative.
“China is ready to support Mindanao region in further development,” he said.
Wang said China was among those who acted promptly to assist the Philippines in weaponry, intelligence and other military support when Islamic State-linked terrorists attacked Marawi City last year.
He said Beijing also gave P1.5 billion as postconflict rehabilitation aid.
The Chinese top diplomat also pledged to work for the importation of Mindanao fruits and provide scholarships to Filipino students. —Reports from Julie M. Aurelio, Germelina Lacorte and Frinston Lim
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