Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian has conveyed Beijing’s assurance of its firm support to the Philippines in “safeguarding its sovereignty and national dignity.”
Huang made this statement in an exclusive interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), People’s Television Network (PTV) and the Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS), all government-funded agencies under the Presidential Communications and Operations Office.
The Chinese diplomat was summarizing the three key messages discussed during the two-day visit of Chinese State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Manila on January 15-16, 2021, centering on the anti-pandemic efforts, the post-pandemic economic cooperation between the two countries, and the South China Sea issue.
“First, China will do its utmost to help the Philippines in its anti-pandemic efforts. Second, China will strongly support the Philippines’ efforts to achieve post-pandemic economic and social recovery at an early date. Third, China will firmly support the Philippines in safeguarding its sovereignty and national dignity,” Huang said in the January 18, 2021 interview, a transcript of which was emailed to members of the private media a day later.
In explaining Wang’s message, the Chinese envoy said the differences between the two countries will be “properly managed,” in an apparent reference to the conflicts in the South China Sea.
“The South China Sea issue is (an) persistent issue between China and the Philippines, but it is by no means a deadlock. As Secretary (Teodoro) Locsin said, it’s just a little pebble on the avenue leading to our mutually beneficial economic progress,” he said.
He added that both sides agreed that the South China Sea issue does not represent the entirety of the China-Philippines relationship, “just as one percent difference should not affect the ninety-nine percent overall relations.”
In July 2016, the Philippines won an award from the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague that invalidated China’s expansive U-shaped claims in the South China Sea.
Huang said both sides have also agreed to adhere to the consensus reached by the President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping to “properly handle differences while strengthening cooperation.”
Efforts are now underway to jointly promote offshore oil and gas cooperation between Manila and Beijing “to find solutions that adapt to the times to solve the problems left over from history,” he said.