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China, the Philippines reaffirm ties

By Prime Sarmiento in Hong Kong | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-08-22 07:51

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr meets China's Ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on Wednesday. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

China and the Philippines have reaffirmed their ties, with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr stressing how the relationship between the two countries will benefit both Chinese and Filipinos.

Marcos made this statement after meeting China's Ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on Wednesday.

"We look forward to further strengthening the relationship between China and the Philippines for the benefit of both our peoples," Marcos wrote on his official Facebook account.

Huang said he was greatly honored to pay a courtesy call on Marcos and that they exchanged views on further strengthening the bilateral relationship.

Huang's exchange with Marcos reaffirmed the "important, high-level partnership between the Philippines and China", said Wilson Lee Flores, a newspaper columnist in Manila and honorary chairman of the Anvil Business Club. He said tension rose in the region following the visit to Taiwan by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, early this month and then a visit by a US congressional delegation.

Analysts have said the Philippine government has consistently upheld the universally, globally accepted and United Nations-recognized one-China principle.

Huang's meeting with Marcos has promoted the "stability and continuity of strong diplomatic ties and mutual respect between our two countries, including the one-China principle", Flores said.

Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, a research fellow with the Philippine think tank Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, said he expects Marcos to continue the warm relations with China that his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte had.

"Marcos continues to build on Duterte's friendly ties with China and even announced his intentions to shift relations to a higher gear," Pitlo said, saying that the Philippines has resumed negotiations with China on the funding of three major railway projects.

These are the PNR South Long Haul Project (North-South Commuter Railway) in the Southern Luzon region, the Subic-Clark Railway in the Central Luzon region, and the Mindanao Railway on the island of Mindanao.

Pelosi's visit to Taiwan not only stirred tension in the region but also strained China-US relations, Pitlo said, and Huang issued a statement earlier this month saying the one-China principle is "an international consensus and universally recognized basic norm governing international relations. It is also the political foundation of China-Philippines relations".

While the Philippines upholds the one-China principle, it also has a military alliance with the US, Pitlo said.

James Chin, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia, said the issue facing the Philippines is similar to issues facing other countries in Southeast Asia. These countries "will try as hard as possible to be friendly with China while maintaining close links with the US", he said.

Criticism of the visit by the US politicians to Taiwan has continued.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday accused the US of trying to provoke a war in China's Taiwan region. Mahathir said the US was antagonizing China through the recent visits of Pelosi and the US lawmakers, which China regards as meddling in its affairs.

Beijing "has allowed Taiwan to remain by itself", Mahathir, 97, was quoted by Southeast Asian media including the Manila Times, as saying. "America is provoking (them) so that there can be a war."

The US could then "sell a lot of arms to Taiwan", he was quoted as saying.

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