Locsin lauds Manila-Beijing ties on Chinese foreign ministerâs third official visit to Philippines
In this photo taken Jan. 16, 2020, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) visits the Philippines to hold bilateral meetings with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (left).

Locsin lauds Manila-Beijing ties on Chinese foreign minister’s third official visit to Philippines

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - January 16, 2021 - 5:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — The country's top diplomat celebrated what he called the mutual support and growing trust between Manila and Beijing as he welcomed his Chinese counterpart for the third time on Saturday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Manila for an official visit on Friday and is expected to depart on Saturday. Wang came to reciprocate Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.'s visit to China last October 2020.

"We are elated that despite the challenges of the pandemic, our high-level engagements have stayed on track," Locsin is quoted as addressing Wang in a transcript released by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"With your third visit to the Philippines and our meeting today – only three months since our most recent meeting in beautiful Tengchong City in Yunnan Province – we demonstrate yet again the strong and manifold ties that bind the Philippines and China," he also said.

The DFA in an earlier statement said the diplomatic counterparts would hold a bilateral meeting to consider ways to accelerate mutually beneficial cooperation, particularly in the priority areas of trade and investments, infrastructure development, and addressing the pandemic.

Regional stability?

"With our two nations’ abiding interest in regional stability and the security of our maritime commons, it behooves us to show our ability to rise to the challenge of managing differences peacefully and in accordance with law while making headway towards trust-building and practical concrete mutually beneficial cooperation," Locsin said.

"Mutual support and growing trust characterize our ties more than ever."  

President Rodrigo Duterte in September last year asserted the 2016 arbitral award invalidating Beijing's nine-dash line claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, calling it "beyond compromise."

But the next month saw China announce that it had "reached consensus" with the Philippines on joint exploration of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, just two days after Duterte lifted the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea. The announcement was made a few days after Locsin's visit to China and was not further commented on by the DFA.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros shortly after called on the energy department to discourage service contractors from entering into joint venture agreements with China-owned companies in their oil and gas exploration of the area.

"Unless China honors our victory over our Exclusive Economic Zone in the WPS, there can be no genuine joint venture," Hontiveros said then.

READ: China says it has 'reached consensus' with Philippines on South China Sea oil exploration | DOE urged to advise Filipino firms to continue West Philippine Sea exploration even without China

Top gov't officials praise Chinese jabs, Beijing ahead of foreign minister's visit

"Under the guiding hand of our two Presidents — whose personal friendship reflects our close national bonds — our engagements in all levels have resumed, and our collaboration on priority economic and infrastructure projects is ongoing," Locsin said.

Duterte has been consistent in his effusiveness for China, most recently rising to the defense of his government's decision to purchase Chinese-made Sinovac vaccines despite the lack of conclusive efficacy data from its manufacturer.

"This vaccine is as good as any other that the Americans or Europeans developed. The Chinese are not lacking in mind," he said partially in Filipino during a pre-recorded address on Wednesday night.

Earlier that same day, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. also praised Wang for giving the government what he called the best price for the Sinovac jabs amid fears that officials were purchasing a vaccine more expensive but less effective than others on the market. On Thursday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque similarly claimed that the Philippines was acquiring the Sinovac doses at a "BFF" or best friend forever. He also told the public that he would personally prefer to receive a Chinese vaccine.

Neither Roque nor Galvez have revealed the actual price of the Sinovac jab, both claiming that they are bound by non-disclosure agreements.

"I cannot overemphasize my debt of gratitude," Duterte said in a speech aired mid-August, thanking China and Russia for expressing their willingness to provide the country with their vaccines.

"Our close cooperation to beat COVID-19 has only further enhanced our overall ties and deepened our friendship," Locsin said Saturday.

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