(UPDATE) PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has expressed intent to elevate the country’s bilateral relations with China to a “higher level” as the two countries agree to join hands “in coping with regional challenges.”
Marcos made the commitment during his meeting with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Manila on Thursday, June 30.
During the meeting, the President told Wang that China is “the most powerful partner of the Philippines,” according to a statement released by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
He said the Philippines’ “good-neighborly friendship is in the fundamental interests of both peoples.”
“The new Philippine government attaches utmost importance to the relations with China, and is willing to deepen its participation in the joint construction of the [One Belt One Road], join hands with China in coping with regional challenges and elevate the bilateral ties to a higher level,” Marcos said as quoted by Xinhua.
Wang, in turn, told Marcos that the Philippine leader and his family have made “great contributions” to enhancing China-Philippine friendship.
He expressed China’s willingness to work with the Philippines under Marcos’ leadership.
“The Chinese side has always given priority to the Philippines in its neighborhood diplomacy, and is ready to work with the new Philippine government in carrying on with their friendship, boosting mutual trust and deepening cooperation so as to usher in a new ‘golden age’ in bilateral ties,” Wang said.
The two countries should dovetail their development strategies so as to foster new growth points of pragmatic cooperation in the new era, he added.
On the issue of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) dispute between the two countries, Wang pointed to the need for the parties to “properly resolve differences and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility” in the contested waters.
He said Manila and Beijing should uphold international equality and justice, and jointly promote peace and development in Asia, as well as the well-being of humanity.
Both sides should develop bilateral relations under the guidance of the two heads of state, who will steer the course of the development of the bilateral ties, according to Wang.
Manila and Beijing have long been locked in a row over areas of the South China Sea — almost all of which China insists it has exclusive rights to, rejecting a 2016 The Hague ruling that its historical claims were without basis.
Former president Rodrigo Duterte fostered warmer ties with the Philippines’ more powerful neighbor by setting aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment, which critics say have not materialized.
Marcos, during a recent event of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding, said he would continue Duterte’s “independent foreign policy.”
“This is what we feel is best in the national interest and I feel it is to be advantageous not only to our friends in China but to all our friends around the world,” he has stated.
Marcos said Philippine alliances with other countries would “keep the stability of our economic recovery” from the Covid -19 pandemic.
“That cooperation is, what I believe, will bring us forward to a bright future… We can only do it with our partners. And our strongest partner has always been, in that regard, our close neighbor and our good friend, the People’s Republic of China,” he added.