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President Rodrigo Duterte has assured China that the Philippines is committed in preserving close ties with the world’s second-largest economic giant as the two nations marked 45 years of diplomatic relations.

In a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping dated June 9, Duterte noted the further strengthening of the two countries’ partnership amid challenges the world is facing, including the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Duterte said the COVID-19 pandemic shows the “greater significance” of nourishing the Philippines' relationship with China, while Xi responded that he is willing to work with Duterte to continuously lift the two countries’ relationship of comprehensive strategic cooperation to new levels.

“I attach great importance to the development of China-Philippines ties,” Xi said when exchanging congratulatory messages with Duterte to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Both China and the Philippines are at a critical moment for development, Xi said in his message, noting that the two countries share broad prospects for cooperation.

On the other hand, Duterte affirmed Manila’s commitment to strengthen the relationship with Beijing as the pandemic, which began in China, continues to upend the stability of the world.

“As the entire world continues to face challenges to security and stability and the rule of law and with the rise of non-traditional and emerging threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic, further strengthening Philippines-China partnership takes on even greater significance. We must forge on and ensure that the potential of our special ties is fully realized,” Duterte said in his letter.

“We must forge on and ensure that the potential of our special ties is fully realized,” he added.

“China is a close neighbor and (a) valued friend. As we look ahead to the golden jubilee of our diplomatic ties, I assure your excellency of our firm commitment to preserve and build on the gains of our close partnership for greater peace, progress, and prosperity for our nations,” he added.

Duterte said the Philippines takes China as a close neighbor and an important partner and is ready to deepen bilateral comprehensive strategic cooperation and facilitate peace, development, and prosperity of the two countries by upholding the principle of peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Sounding a more discordant note, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday urged the telecom giant PLDT to scrap its partnership with China and Vietnam, after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, top military officials and journalists who accompanied them to Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea received separate messages welcoming them to China or to Vietnam.

In a series of tweets rife with expletives, Locsin said: “To PLDT. Just drop that roaming partnership shit with China and Vietnam. You f---ers are making my work harder.”

He added: “I don’t give 2 s---ts what your business plan is for that arrangement. Drop it before I visit you,” the country’s top diplomat added.

Smart Communications spokesperson Ramon Isberto said the operators from its roaming partners in China and Vietnam have signals in that area.

“The signals that were received by the group who went to Pag-asa Island were transmissions from the mobile operators in Vietnam and China who are our roaming partners,” Isberto said.

“The operators have signals there, in that area of the West Philippine Sea, particularly in the area around Pag-asa Island. This is why their signal picked it up and received a roaming welcome message,” Isberto added.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Xi Jinping , coronavirus disease pandemic , China-Philippines ties
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