RELATIONS between China and the Philippines are improving “beautifully” under President Rodrigo Duterte, Beijing’s envoy said as Duterte warms to China and Russia following US criticism of his bloody war on illegal drugs.
Ambassador Zhao Jianhua offered effusive praise for Duterte in a speech at the embassy reception for the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China late Tuesday, saying Beijing “firmly supports” his anti-drugs campaign that has prompted Western condemnation of alleged extrajudicial killings.
Duterte has rejected the criticism, including by long-time treaty ally the United States, and said he would seek closer economic ties with China and Russia.
“The clouds are fading away. The sun is rising over the horizon and will shine beautifully on the new chapter of bilateral relations,” Zhao said according to a copy of the speech released by the Chinese embassy Wednesday.
Zhao said Manila and Beijing had been engaging in “friendly interactions” since Duterte took office nearly three months ago.
This was in stark contrast to fraught ties under Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose government lodged a case at an international tribunal in 2013 seeking to nullify Beijing’s territorial claims over most of the South China Sea.
In July, the tribunal rejected most of China’s claims as well as its extensive island-building in disputed waters.
Duterte has however stressed he would not risk war by enforcing the ruling, preferring quiet diplomacy to persuade China to abide by the verdict.
Duterte has responded with abusive comments against critics of his war on crime.
In his latest remarks late Tuesday, he accused the US of “manipulating” the peso, which hit a seven-year low to the dollar on Monday, and dared investors concerned about his crime war to leave the Philippines.
Many market analysts said the market was spooked by the breakdown in the rule of law after Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown left more than 3,700 people dead. Rights groups claim some of them had been summarily executed.
Zhao said Beijing would provide assistance to Manila and cooperate with the Duterte administration to jointly implement a “bilateral plan of action” to crack down on illegal drugs.
Duterte had urged Beijing “to control their people and increase their focus on criminals” because the bulk of illegal drugs in the Philippines were allegedly sourced from China.
“Illegal drugs are the enemy of all mankind,” Zhao said. “The Chinese side fully understands and firmly supports the Duterte administration’s policy that prioritizes the fight against drug crimes.”
He did not elaborate on the bilateral plan against drugs.
Zhao said China was “a staunch force in the international campaign against drug crimes” and was of the belief that “it is the shared responsibility of all countries to fight against drug-related crimes.”