CHINESE Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua has said China hopes to have a “new chapter” in its diplomatic relations with the Philippines, whoever becomes the next President after the May 9 elections.
With the new chapter, Zhao means that the Philippines and China will have a bilateral relationship that focuses on areas of common interests—economic, financial, trade cooperation, tourism and people-to-people context—that both countries can benefit from.
Zhao said he wants the next administration to improve the ties between the two countries, whose relationship went to its lowest point over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
“Of course we have differences,” Zhao told reporters on the sidelines of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the European Union-Philippines relations on Thursday night. “We hope that we can handle it properly and we should not let these differences be the focus of our relationship.”
He also said that relations between the two countries should not be affected by the upcoming ruling of an international tribunal on the case leveled by the Philippines against China over their sea disputes.
Manila filed a memorial against Beijing before the Permanent Arbitration Court (PCA), in The Hague in 2013, to affirm its right to areas within 200 nautical miles of its coastline, under the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The ambassador maintained that China would not recognize the ruling.
“We did not participate [in the court proceedings],” Zhao said. “We will not accept and we will not implement [the decision]. That’s our position. No changing.”
The diplomat added that the Philippines and China should have no dispute over territories that could be settled through bilateral talks.
“Some media talks about ‘conflicts,’ ” he said. “I hate that word. There is no conflict between China and the Philippines. China and the Philippines are friends, neighbors, partners. We don’t fight against each other.”
Zhao expressed willingness to personally meet the next Philippine President, whom he hopes will initiate the resumption of bilateral talks to find a solution that is agreeable to both sides.
He cited that China was able to resolve its separate territorial disputes with Russia and Vietnam through bilateral dialogue and negotiation.
The last time the Philippines and China had a bilateral talk was in 2014, when President Benigno Aquino III visited Beijing. MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO