AS the treaty alliance between the Philippines and the United States slowly turns sour, the Chinese ambassador said a stronger military cooperation between Manila and Beijing was in the offing.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said an enhancement of military ties between the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) foes was “something we are looking at.”
“I think, first of all, because of the differences we have in the South China Sea, the two militaries need to talk to each other to enhance trust and mutual confidence to avoid incidents of misunderstanding because no country, including China and the Philippines, wants conflict or tension,” he told reporters last week.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier announced plans to buy arms from China and Russia, allowing them to finally have a foothold in the Philippine arms market, in which 75 percent of weapons come from the US.
The two powers have agreed to 25-year soft loans that would allow the Philippines to purchase weapons, said Duterte.
Apart from military deal, Beijing wants to enhance cooperation with Manila in areas such as infrastructure, transportation, industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries.
“Investments from China in the Philippines, it’s going to be very good for the economic and social development of the Philippines. And China is willing to be an active participant in President Duterte’s socioeconomic agenda so that we can prove together with the Philippines that we are good neighbors, we’re good partners and we are brothers,” Zhao said.
Zhao said that the upcoming visit of Duterte to Beijing, reportedly on October 20, was still being arranged.
“I think warming up relations with China has its own merits … we will promote not only friendship and cooperation between the two countries, but we will also contribute to the development of the Philippines,” he said.
“We have differences but we can talk and I believe we’re patient and wise enough to seek a peaceful solution to whatever differences we have in the South China Sea,” Zhao said.
Professor Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University’s political science department said Philippines-China ties were “already warming” after reaching a low point over the sea dispute.
He said Duterte was doing good in establishing relations with other major powers, especially in engaging with China bilaterally to ease longstanding tensions in the West Philippine Sea and revive economic ties with the Asian giant.
On Duterte’s China visit, he said: “The signal will be very clear: The Philippines is no longer just a Western ally, that the Philippines is an independent country, that it chooses its foreign policy priorities depending on what the national interest dictates.”