CHINA is looking forward to working with presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said on Tuesday.
“China and Philippines are good neighbors, partners and relatives, and the Chinese side is looking forward to working with the Philippine side,” the ambassador said after emerging from his first meeting with Duterte, currently the mayor of Davao City in southern Philippines.
He added that Beijing and Manila should work closely in resolving differences, deepening traditional friendship and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in order to bring bilateral ties forward.
During the meeting, Zhao said, he and Duterte “had friendly and sincere exchanges on the development of China-Philippines relations.”
According to the Chinese ambassador, the Davao City mayor expressed willingness to improve ties between the two countries, whose relationship plunged to a 40-year low because of a festering dispute over some territories in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Duterte, the ambassador added, was also interested in strengthening bilateral cooperation for the benefit of the peoples of both countries.
The Philippines is waiting for the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea before which it filed a memorial questioning China’s claim on almost the entire West Philippine Sea.
During the campaign period, Duterte said he would call for a bilateral dialogue with China, but he also quipped that he will ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag to the Spratlys, a chain of islets and islands in the South China Sea.
The mayor added that he would consider putting aside differences with China if Beijing offered some big-ticket railway projects in Mindanao.
But recently, Duterte said he would resolve the territorial dispute through multilateral talks, with the United States, Japan and Australia and claimant nations in the West Philippine Sea taking part.