PH, China foreign ministers hold talks to advance cooperation on COVID-19 response, infrastructure

Published January 16, 2021, 8:29 PM

by Betheena Unite

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister (SCFM) Wang Yi met in Taguig City Saturday, Jan. 16, to reaffirm the two nations’ cooperation in addressing the pandemic and infrastructure collaborations.

The ministerial talks, according to Locsin, covered a full agenda on enhancing the relationship, which had been elevated to the level of Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation during the State visit of President Xi Jinping to the Philippines in November 2018. 

“With both countries at a crucial stage in curbing COVID-19 and responding to the new strain, the two Ministers continued discussions started last year on cooperation to surmount the pandemic in terms of containment, vaccines, and economic revitalization,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

During the meeting, the State Councilor informed Locsin of China’s intention to donate 500,000 doses of vaccines to the Philippines, in keeping with President Xi’s commitment to President Duterte.

“We have reached an important juncture. The fight against COVID-19 and the universal acceptance of the new inescapable normal is entering a turning point, with the beginning of vaccinations,” Locsin said during his speech. 

“With our two nations’ abiding interest in regional stability and the security of our maritime commons, it behooves us to show our ability to rise to the challenge of managing differences peacefully and in accordance with law, while making headway towards trust-building and practical concrete mutually beneficial cooperation,” the secretary added. 

The two ministers also committed “to step-up collaboration on infrastructure projects under the Build Build Build program.”

They also confirmed that the differences on contentious maritime issues “do not represent the entirety of the Philippines-China bilateral relationship.”

According to the department, “both sides renewed their commitment to mutual respect, managing issues peacefully and in accordance with international law, and exploring areas for possible cooperation.”

The two ministers also discussed cooperation within ASEAN-led frameworks and agreed on the importance of preserving and promoting regional peace, stability and security.

Locsin and Yi also witnessed the signing of the Philippines-China Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation by Finance Undersecretary Mark Joven and China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) Vice Chair Deng Boqing. 

The agreement makes available a grant of 500 million RMB to finance livelihood projects, infrastructure facilities, feasibility studies for major projects and other mutually agreed projects.

They also witnessed the ceremonial unveiling of a plaque to mark the designation of the Bank of China’s Manila Branch as Renminbi Clearing Bank in the Philippines led by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno and Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian. 

According to the Foreign Affairs department, the launch of the Renminbi clearing facility will help boost the country’s financial sector and improve trading rates for participating Philippine banks.

China’s Foreign Minister’s visit to the country reciprocates Locsin’s visit to Tengchong City, Yunnan, China, in October 2020.