THE words heard the other day from the mouth of the People’s Republic of China’s Ambassador to the Philippines were music to our ears. Ambassador Zhao Jianhua assured President Benigno Aquino 3rd that the disputes between his country and ours are only “temporary.”
He spoke at the Manila Hotel where the Filipino-Chinese community’s leading associations were celebrating both the 116th anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence from Spain and the 13th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day. Ambassador Zhao said China wants peace and stability in the region.
“The difficulties we’re facing on South China Sea are temporary,” he said. He expressed confidence in the ability of the two countries to settle the dispute “through negotiations and consultations.”
“It is our common aspiration to maintain peace and stability and to keep the momentum of economic growth,” China’s ambassador also said, adding, “It is our common responsibility to handle the South China Sea issue in a proper and peaceful manner. It is our common responsibility to carry on and further promote bilateral friendship and cooperation inherited from our ancestors to the future generations. This serves the fundamental interests of our two countries, the well-being of our two peoples as well as peace and stability of the region.”
It was nice to hear him say these words that every Chinese ambassador has said before: “The Chinese government has always attached great importance to its relations with the Philippines, and I believe that we have the wisdom, patience and courage to settle the disputes through negotiations and consultations.”
President Benigno Aquino 3rd was also a speaker in the Chinese-Filipino event. He thanked China for its help and commitment to improve the “circumstances of our people.” China has been helping in the rehabilitation of those people in the Visayas who were severely afflicted by Super Typhoon Yolanda. And Chinese investments in the Philippines, especially during the Macapagal-Arroyo regime that the Aquino regime replaced, have been a big factor in the Philippine macro-economic success that has impressed the rest of the world.
President Aquino correctly pointed out that “the disputes that we do have in the sea that borders our respective lands should not be the sum total of our relationships.” “Peace and stability are necessary components” for the progress of China, the Philippines and the region, he added.
Earlier, words of wisdom also came from former National Security Adviser Retired General Jose Almonte. He reiterated thoughts that he has actually been writing about and saying for years about our country’s relations with China. He said that because it is China’s grand plan to be a superpower, it seeks to be the top power in Asia and thus wants to have control over the South China Sea (which is our West Philippine Sea). Because of this we Filipinos have to realize and face up to the reality that China and the Philippines will always have disputes over that issue because these waters are part of Philippine territory.
General Almonte’s wise prescription is people-to-people relations. These should be strengthened and expanded. Relations between the governments and military branches of China and the Philippines are one thing. But cooperative ties between individuals and groups of civilian scientific, medical, cultural, economic, agricultural, technological, literary and business people working together can flourish despite these conflicts.