Despite a long-standing territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, the relationship between the two countries is “better than ever,” according to Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar.
On the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on Thursday, Andanar lauded China for its economic growth and global initiatives.
“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. So much wisdom, so much generosity, congratulations to the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
Andanar added that the Philippines was “experiencing good economic trading strides” with China, in terms of growth in tourism, agriculture and other business ventures from Chinese investors in the country.
“Our government and the government of the People’s Republic of China are working together,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Undersecretary Eduardo Malaya said the Philippines and China would overcome any hurdle because of their “special bonds and partnerships.”
“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 added.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, meanwhile, acknowledged the maritime dispute between the two countries, but said it did not define the country’s bilateral relations.
“It is our belief that South China (West Philippine) Sea issue is not the sum total of China-Philippine relations, nor disputes, the sum total of South China Sea issues,” Zhao said.
Critics of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte had called him out for his non-confrontational stance on certain agreements with China, particularly on contested territories in the South China Sea.
During his visit to China last month, Duterte failed to invoke the 2016 ruling of the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration that rejected Beijing’s sweeping maritime claim over the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.