The Philippine and Chinese governments have reaffirmed the “continuing vitality” of their bilateral relations amid the constraints posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The reaffirmation was made during the official visit of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to China where he met with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“The two foreign ministers held a bilateral meeting to take stock of priority political and economic bilateral cooperation initiatives. Both sides reaffirmed the continuing vitality of relations despite the constraints imposed by COVID-19, and pledged to forge ahead with sustained policy dialogues, as well as economic and infrastructure cooperation projects,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.
Wang affirmed China’s commitment to supporting the Duterte administration’s infrastructure drive under the “Build, Build, Build” program.
He also told Locsin that China and the Philippines should shelve the South China Sea disputes to avoid affecting the hard-won momentum of improvement and development of bilateral relations.
In a report posted on the Chinese Embassy’s official Facebook page, Wang was quoted as telling Locsin that China and the Philippines “must stay permanent friends regardless of any changes in the international situation.”
Noting that the two sides have accumulated a lot of “useful experience in properly handling the South China Sea issue,” the Chinese foreign minister expressed hope that both sides would continue to manage differences through dialogue and cooperation.
China’s top diplomat likewise assured the visiting Philippine official that China is willing to work with Manila to promote the consultation on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea and reach an early agreement on effective regional rules jointly recognized by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
This, according to Wang, is to show the world that China and ASEAN countries have the ability and wisdom to maintain peace and stability in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
Wang also assured Locsin that China will continue to support the Philippines in its fight against the pandemic and provide necessary resources and sharing of experience.
Locsin thanked China for its COVID-19 assistance as he looks forward to vaccine cooperation.
The Chinese government has publicly pledged that an effective coronavirus vaccine will be available by the end of the year and has committed to sharing its vaccines with more than a dozen low-income countries that it has close ties with.
Last June, Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Duterte that China will give the Philippines “priority access” to a vaccine it is developing against coronavirus.
The two top diplomats had a “candid” and “in-depth” exchange on regional security concerns, as well as issues of mutual interest in the context of ASEAN-China relations in which the Philippines acts as China coordinator, as well as in broader multilateral fora.
At the meeting’s close, Locsin and Wang also confirmed the prospective establishment of a fast lane to facilitate the movement of essential official exchanges and travel by personnel in crucial industries such as business and trade, infrastructure, logistics, production, and technical services.
Locsin was in China on October 9-11, his first official trip overseas since February, 2020.
Wang received the Filipino top diplomat and his entourage in Tengchong City, in the southern province of Yunnan.
Joining Locsin were his wife Ma. Lourdes Locsin and several DFA officials, including Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana, Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje, Philippine Embassy-Beijing Minister Raphael Hermoso, Special Assistant Shiena Escoto-Tesorero, Embassy Third Secretary and Vice Consul Jet Olfato, and Asian and Pacific Affairs Principal Assistant Emilio Lopue Jr. (With PNA)