AMID a heated territorial dispute over some islands in the Spratlys, the Philippines remains a good neighbor to China and the two countries would continue to maintain contact on a “friendly level,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Monday.
The Palace official made the remark after outgoing Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing made a farewell call on President Benigno Aquino 3rd also on Monday.
“Hindi nawawala po ang pagkakaibigan natin sa Tsina. Bagamat may konting hidwaan, hindi naman ito nagiging sagabal sa atin [Our friendship with China remains. Although there is little misunderstanding, that will not be a hurdle],” Lacierda said.
Ambassador Ma began her tour of duty in the country in January 2012 and will be replaced by the end of the month.
Lacierda said he expects the next Chinese Ambassador to be as friendly as Ma whom he described as “a very warm ambassador.”
“I am certain that despite the differences we will have a friendly and a warm departure for Ambassador Ma Keqing. I, personally, have treated her very warmly. She’s a very warm ambassador and it has never stopped us from communicating with each other. So relationship with China will always be multifaceted and multi-dimensional,” he said.
According to Lacierda, the issue on Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) which is being claimed by China is just part and parcel of the bigger relationship issue with the mainland.
He stressed that Manila’s friendly relations with Beijing goes beyond the issue of the Panatag Shoal and other disputed islets in the Spratlys.
“We have always maintained that the relationship with China has never been on a one-dimensional. It has never been focused on our tension with China on the West Philippine Sea. It has always been multifaceted, multi-dimensional,” Lacierda pointed out.
He claimed that, in fact, there are several exchanges in line between the two countries.
“We have tourism exchanges, friendship exchanges. Chonese reports will be visiting here. We will also send our people to China for some seminars. So we expect a level of contact with them still on a friendly level,” Lacierda pointed out.
As to Ma’s replacement, the Palace official said he expects the “multilevel” exchanges to continue.
“Understandably, as an ambassador you will defend the interests of your country. We will expect that the relationship pa rin ng China and the Philippines regardless of the ambassador will continue to be [multi-leveled]. Hindi lang naman focused on this issue of the Scarborough but patuloy po ang exchanges, friendly exchanges natin with China,” he emphasized.