The South East Asian nation has had a rollercoaster relationship with Beijing as the nations are at odds over the South China Sea. However in an address on the eve of Chinese New Year, the leader of the Philippines said the “friendship and cooperation forged between the Philippines and China” had led to “greater prosperity and economic growth”. Mr Duterte said: “The friendship and cooperation forged between the Philippines and China have not only led to greater prosperity and economic growth for both our nations, but also gave rise to a unique culture that is nurtured by harmony amidst diversity.”
In 2013 Chinese New Year was declared “a special working holiday” by the Filipino Senate “as a sign of goodwill and amity between the Philippines and China”.
At the time it was said there were around 1.35 million Chinese people living in the Philippines and a further 22.8 million Filipinos with Chinese ancestry.
In his speech Mr Duterte also urged Chinese-Filipinos to “cultivate the values and ideals that fuel our strong resolve to usher in a period of greater peace and understanding as we rise higher above the challenges ahead.”
He added: “May this New Year bring hope, inspiration and more achievements to the Chinese-Filipino community and the entire nation.”
Under Duterte’s leadership Manila and Beijing have enhanced cooperation in the fields of security, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism, cultural and people-to-people exchanges despite an ongoing dispute over the South China Sea.
The South China Sea, situated between west of the Philippines, has been a hotbed of contention.
Most recently, Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said the Philippines would contest the opening of a maritime rescue centre by Beijing in the South China Sea.
Mr Locsin on Twitter said “We will” protest if the reports turn out to be true adding: “I however preferred engaging them openly on the floor of the UN General Assembly.”
His comments come after Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said last week that the Philippines should be “thankful” to China, claiming a rescue centre could help everybody.