Embassy counters top US diplomat on economic impact of PH-China relations

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Embassy counters top US diplomat on economic impact of PH-China relations
US State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland engages with youth leaders during her visit to Manila on Monday, March 6, 2023.
Release / US Embassy in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese embassy on Friday accused a top US diplomat of “discrediting” economic cooperation between China and the Philippines as it once again warned that the expansion of Washington’s access to Manila’s military bases “will seriously endanger regional peace and stability.”

The embassy was responding to US State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland’s remarks to select reporters during her visit to Manila where she touted the expansion of sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between Manila and Washington will lead to economic opportunities.

“Such remarks are in total ignorance of the Philippine people’s pursuit of peace, cooperation and development as well as China-Philippines helping each other in developing economy, improving people’s livelihood and increasing employment,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement.

Its statement came days after Nuland’s visit to Manila, where she told select reporters: “We’ve seen a lot of promises from Beijing. How many of those promises have actually converted into jobs, into the kind of investment that is sustainable, and that brings benefits to the Philippines rather than just to Beijing?”

In response, the embassy cited that around 40 government-to-government projects have been completed or are in progress, including the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, Davao-Samal Bridge and Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

It also touted that 14 intergovernmental cooperation agreements have been signed in agriculture and fisheries, finance, customs, e-commerce and tourism, among others.

‘Up to China’

The Chinese embassy let out another warning about the expansion of EDCA sites, saying this will “drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development at the end of the day.”

“We hope that the Philippine people can tell the selfish interests and zero-sum mentality of the United States to provoke a new cold war in this region,” it added.

Nuland said local communities where the four new EDCA sites will be located are being consulted, but she deferred to the Philippine government to announce where these sites will be.

While there have been no announcements as to where the new EDCA sites will be located, it has been reported that the US asked for access to bases in Isabela, Zambales and Cagayan facing north towards Taiwan, and on Palawan near the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Reports of EDCA sites being established up north raised concerns from Senate foreign affairs panel chairperson Imee Marcos who suggested last week during an inquiry that these may be used by the US as bases or staging grounds in the event of a conflict in Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that China considers to be a renegade province.

Nuland reiterated the stance of the US that its policy of recognizing Beijing as the legitimate Chinese state has not changed, but added that they “don’t want to see a change in the status quo.”

“We want a free open Indo-Pacific. We will continue to ensure that we are supporting Taiwan as needed and that we are ensuring that the international waters remain free and open,” she said.

She continued: “It’s really up to China what kind of future they want to have. But it is not we that seek conflict in any way.”

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