Palace says Philippine-China ties 'better than ever'

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace says Philippine-China ties 'better than ever'
In this Nov. 20, 2018 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photo prior to their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace.
Presidential Photo / Richard Madelo

MANILA, Philippines — The relationship between the Philippines and China is "better than ever," Malacañang said, a day after Manila's top diplomat claimed that the agreements signed by the two countries "hardly materialized."

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said more Chinese investors and tourists are coming to the Philippines and more Philippine agricultural products are entering China because of the improved bilateral ties.

"The current Philippines and China relations is better than ever. We are experiencing good economic trading strides," Andanar said during the reception of the 70th founding anniversary of China in Makati last Thursday.

"We are also experiencing growth in tourism from China, we are exporting more of our agricultural products to China, we are seeing many businesses and investors come from China. Our government, and the government of the People's Republic of China are working together," he added.

READ: Teddy Locsin: Chinese commitments to Philippines hardly materialized

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Malaya expressed confidence that Manila and Beijing would overcome any challenge because of the "close relations and mutual trust the two countries have cultivated in recent years."

"As with any journey, we might on occasion encounter challenges, but the road before us is broad. And as we continue moving forward in good faith, mutual respect, and cooperation between two friends, no obstacle should be insurmountable,” Malaya, who represented Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. during the reception, said.

The reception was held a day after Locsin told participants of a forum in New York that the deals signed by the Philippines and China "hardly materialized" and are "nothing" compared to Japanese investments and official assistance. Locsin had also claimed that the Japanese government was "pouring it in" with assistance and the Philippines is feeling the "rising Japan" phenomenon.

READ: Chinese envoy blamed Philippine government for slow delivery of commitments — Palace

The relationship between the Philippines and China were strained after the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III challenged the legality of China's maritime claims in the West Philippine Sea before an international court.

In 2016, a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal voided China's maritime claim and upheld the Philippines' sovereign rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. China has refused to recognize the ruling, calling it "illegal" and "a mere piece of paper." President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to set aside the ruling to improve the Philippines' relationship with China but clarified that the Philippines won't abandon its maritime claims.  

Due to their improved ties, the Philippines and China signed several agreements in the last three years, including a memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea.

READ: Locsin likens South China Sea code to 'feeding a dragon in your living room'

In an interview on the sidelines of the reception, Andanar heaped praises on China and even likened its anniversary to a "grandfather."

“China is like celebrating a grandfather’s birthday. And you know what a grandfather is — a grandfather means wisdom. And it has grown so much in its economy and it’s grown so much in its culture and the values that it shares not only inside China, but the other neighboring countries and places where this One Belt and One Road Initiative passes through," he said.

Malaya lauded China’s strong economic growth in the past seven decades.

“These past seven decades witnessed perhaps the most remarkable story of growth, development, and poverty alleviation the world has yet seen. The revitalization of the Chinese nation to a position of global prominence," Malaya said.  

READ: Palace to Carpio: Duterte won't allow Chinese assault on Philippine sovereignty

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua reiterated that the South China Sea dispute does not define the relations between the Philippines and China.

Chinese official development assistance is funding key Philippine projects including the P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam and the P4.37-billion Chico River irrigation project. Some sectors are worried that the administration's reliance on Chinese loans would lead the Philippines to a "debt trap" but officials deny this, saying they have secured better concessional loan financing from China.

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