The bond between the Philippines and China is improving every day, said President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting with the delegation from the Communist Party of China (CPC) led by the close staff of China President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, January 9.
In a Palace press statement, the president reiterated, “Our desire and wish of the Filipino people that we make our bond stronger’.”
According to Malacañang, CPC Central Committee member Meng Xiangfeng and three other CPC leaders held discussions with Duterte. Accompanying them were Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and Chinese Embassy counselor Sun Yi.
The other delegation members were Yuan Zhibing, director general of Bureau One International Department of the CPC; Lin Zhi, division chief, Personnel Bureau, CPC; and Du Dingding, division chief, Bureau One International Department.
The CPC members were invited by the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which was represented at the meeting by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, the party president, and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the party’s vice chair.
PH still trusts China
When asked to comment over the reported airbase with military facilities and hospital that China built in the Kagitingan Reef (also known as Fiery Cross Reef), Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday that the Philippines was still relying on China’s good faith that the Chinese government would not undertake new reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.
“When we say we are relying on China’s good faith, it is because China has committed not to embark on new reclamations,” Roque said during Palace briefing.
Roque further explained that China has already reclaimed Kagitingan and is the subject of the arbitral tribunal’s decision that the island is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“So when we invoke the good faith of China, it is against making further reclamations and not making further works on islands that it had already reclaimed,” Roque said.
“So I hope that is very clear. So the good faith we’re relying on is the commitment of China not to embark on new reclamations,” he added.
Roque, however, affirmed the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who said that the Philippines would file a diplomatic protest against China if they had indeed built an airbase with military facilities in Kagitingan Island.
“Of course, that’s the proper remedy ‘no. But that’s something that the Department of Foreign Affairs will have to address,” Roque said.
Roque said if China would militarize the island, it would be a “further threat to peace and security in the area.”
“But the point is, has there been a breach of Chinese commitment not to reclaim any new islands or shoals in the area? For as long as there is none, then we continue to respect that they are true to their commitment not to do so,” he explained.
Roque also said, “From the very beginning China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases.
“So the fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I’m concerned, is not new, new. It’s not news. Because we’ve always been against the militarization of the area. But the good faith commitment is not to reclaim new islands. I hope that’s very clear,” he added.
Since Duterte assumed office in 2016, he has maintained a friendly stance with China to strengthen economic and diplomatic relations. Duterte resolved to have a bilateral dialogue with China over the long-standing maritime dispute over conflicting claims onparts of the South China Sea.