BEIJING: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attributed the renewed relationship between the Philippines and China to President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a press conference at the sidelines of the 5th Session of the National People’s Congress, Wang said Duterte has appropriately handled the South China Sea issue.
“Since President Duterte came into office, he has appropriately handled the South China Sea issue and actively improved relations with China,” Wang told local and foreign media.
He said the good relations between the two countries will ultimately serve not only the interest of the Philippines but the entire Asian region.
“The Philippines has extended a hand of friendship and of course, China will embrace it with open arms,” the Foreign Minister said.
“The turnaround of China-Philippines relation lifts the benefits of friendship of our two peoples and the wider region. None of this happened by accident. It merely reflects what relationship is supposed to be like,” he added.
In less than six months since Duterte visited China, Wang said 1,000 Chinese tourist groups have visited the Philippines and China has imported over 2,000 tons of tropical fruits, including bananas, from the Philippines.
“At present the two countries are tackling the full potentials of our bilateral cooperation to make up for lost time,” Wang said.
He added that intensive discussions are ongoing for the cooperation on infrastructure projects such as railways, bridges and dams.
Wang said some of the projects may begin this year.
“This speaks of China’s intention to increase our friendship and cooperation with the Philippines,” Wang said.
On the issue of South China Sea, Wang said the Philippines and China agreed to establish bilateral consultation and to set up cooperation mechanisms between the two countries’ coast guards.
“The China-Philippines relationship has indeed returned to the right path, one that serves the interest of both peoples. Together, the two sides should march forward with unity and purpose,” Wang said.
He said China will not allow the hard-earned stability in the South China Sea to be undermined again, adding the situation in the disputed territory has visibly calmed down because of efforts of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
He said China and the ASEAN countries had agreed to advance the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the Southeast Sea to settle the maritime dispute through dialogue and consultation.
“At this moment, if someone should try to make waves and stir trouble, they will have no support and face common opposition of the entire region,” Wang said.