President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday called China the Philippines’ “strongest partner” from among the community of nations in terms of recovering economically from COVID-19.
Marcos made this declaration during the Award for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding event at a hotel in Makati City, where he was the guest speaker.
This developed as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an ally of Marcos, said Philippines-China relations were “at an all-time low” during the administration of her successor, the late President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Arroyo, who earned a fresh term to Congress representing Pampanga’s 2nd District in the May 9 elections, made this remark during her induction as one of the Hall of Fame awardees of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding for their “remarkable contributions in promoting friendship between China and the Philippines.”
Marcos framed his statement at the event, which was attended by Chinese officials and members of the Filipino-Chinese community, using the Philippines’ attempt to move into the post-pandemic stage, which he would lead when he assumes the presidency on June 30.
“Come to the day that we can say that…we are beyond the pandemic crisis, we are beyond the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic,” the 64-year-old incoming President said.
“We can only do it, certainly, in the Philippines, with our partners.
And our strongest partner has always been, in that regard, our close neighbor and our good friend, the People’s Republic of China,” he said, triggering a round of applause.
Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte made huge strides in fixing PH-China ties after relations went through a down period in the previous Aquino government, mainly due to the longstanding maritime disputes between Manila and Beijing.
But in his speech, Marcos focused on how the two nations can move their relationship forward in the post-pandemic world.
“As we try to make our way in the post-pandemic world… each country will not be able to thrive, to survive and to thrive by itself. We have developed such a close global community both in politics, both in diplomacy, also in business. And so that it is not possible any longer for a single country to make its own way and say that they will succeed,” he said.
“I truly believe that it is the partnerships and alliances that we as a country will make with our friends and allies and partners around the world that will keep the stability of our economic recovery,” the President-elect added.
“And I think that, again, the synergy that will come from that cooperation is what I believe will bring us forward to a bright future,” Marcos said.
Meanwhile, Arroyo said: “Sometime six years ago, the Philippine-China relations were at an all-time low since our diplomatic relations were established in 1975.”
“However, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte reversed such a stance, so much so that China’s President Xi Jinping went on a state visit here in 2018, the first time that a Chinese President paid us a state visit since 2005,” Arroyo said.
“That signaled that we are close buddies and good partners again with a common goal of sustainable growth in an atmosphere of unity and peace,” she added.
Duterte succeeded the late President “Noynoy” Aquino III in 2016.
While Arroyo did not expound on why the relations between the two countries dropped to a low, during the Aquino administration the Philippines sued China before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration over repeated aggression against Filipino fisherfolk within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Philippines sued China before the Hague in 2013. Three years later in July 2016, the Hague court junked China’s nine-dash line claim of the entire South China Sea which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
China, however, has refused to participate in the Hague proceedings and does not recognize the Philippines’ unprecedented legal victory to this day.
China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, for his part, maintained that China has always sought friendship and peaceful means in dealing with its “longtime ally,” the Philippines.
He cited that former Philippine President Joseph Estrada penned a presidential decree establishing the Philippines-China Friendship Week, while his successor Arroyo declared June 9 as Philippine-China Friendship Day.
“Our aspiration for greater understanding and deeper friendship has not changed and will not change,” Huang said.