Neighbors engaging in a word war doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve already burned bridges.
A Malacañang spokesman on Monday said Manila continues to have “good [and]positive relations” with its affluent neighbor China despite the two sides having been embroiled in a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Edwin Lacierda said the Philippines has “no conflict with the Chinese people.”
“Our differences are with the approach of the leadership in dealing with the South China Sea [issue]. But on the whole, with respect to the Chinese people, we continue to establish good relations with them,” Lacierda told reporters.
“We have a multi-level relationship with China. We have always mentioned this. We have people-to-people exchanges, we’ve got trade, we’ve got cultural. The discussions in the South China Sea [are]just one of those… We cannot limit ourselves to the negatives,” he said.
Lacierda made the statements ahead of a commemorative program in Pasay City (Metro Manila) late Monday afternoon marking the 40th anniversary of the forging of diplomatic relations between Manila and Beijing.
The Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. and the Filipino-Chinese community had announced that President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Beijing’s envoy to Manila Zhao Jianhua would be attending the event at the Philippine International Convention Center.
Lacierda said the President will deliver a speech to highlight contributions of the Filipino-Chinese community to the growth of the country’s economy and to the enhancement of Filipinos’ lives.
“We continue to invest in China as they continue to look for possible investments here in the Philippines as well. So, if you are going to limit yourself only to the South China [Sea] issue, certainly, it will color your perspective. But if you look at it from a broader perspective where we have established good relations with China and we are friends — the Chinese people are here, Filipinos are there,” he added.
“We cannot limit ourselves to the negatives. Our view of our relations with China has always been positive and we view that concern in the South China Sea also in the positive note that we are going to deal with this issue on the South China Sea by way of international arbitration. And that’s what we have been doing now,” Lacierda said.
The Palace official answered in the affirmative when asked if it makes sense to celebrate Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day despite China’s perceived aggression and bullying in contested waters.
“Just to be clear, we have no conflict with the Chinese people. Our conflict, for instance…Our differences are with the approach of the leadership in dealing with the South China Sea [row]. But on the whole, with respect to the Chinese people, we continue to establish good relations with them. And we certainly look forward to better relations with China,” Lacierda said.