President Aquino (left) shakes the hand of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua (right) during the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc.'s celebration of the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day at the Manila Hotel in Manila on Tuesday. Photo by Ryan Lim, Malacanang Photo
MANILA - China on Tuesday virtually urged Manila not to fight Beijing over the West Philippine Sea, with a reminder of what China has done, and what it can still do for the economy of the world, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines.
This, at the 13th anniversary of Filipino-Chinese friendship day amid simmering tensions over maritime disputes between the two countries.
China's Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua delivered the message during the joint celebration of the Filipino-Chinese friendship day and the Philippines' 116th indepence day.
He said China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can become more important trade partners.
Zhao said about half of the members of ASEAN have China as their top trading partner.
“China has been a major driving force for Asia’s economic development and has contributed to over 50% of Asia’s economic growth," he said. "In 2013, 2-way trade between China and ASEAN reached US $443.6 billion. The accumulated value of China’s investment in ASEAN countries exceeded $100 billion. China is also the largest trading partner of half of ASEAN countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. ASEAN and China announced in 2013, in a joint statement, that both sides would strive for the bilateral trade target of $1 trillion and two-way investment of $150 billion by 2020. The comprehensive process of China’s deepening reform will release enormous opportunities and bonus for the countries in this region."
He said China can provide an even bigger market, with Beijing expected to import about $10 trillion worth of goods in the next 5 years.
China is the Philippines' 3rd largest trading partner. Chinese tourists in the Philippines have also increased.
“Two-way trade of our countries reached $12.5 billion, which increased by 14.6% on a yearly basis. Last year, 426,000 tourists visited the Philippines, a sharp increase of 70% over 2012. Given the current trend, if we can further tap the potentials and create better conditions and atmosphere, China and the Philippines will do even better," Zhao said.
“Peace and stability are precious prerequisites for social development. We have every reason to enhance mutual trust… maintain regional peace and stability,“ he added.
"Compared with our thousand-year-old friendship and extensive cooperation, the difficulties we are facing on the South China Sea issue are temporary," he said. "It is our common responsibility to handle the South China Sea issue in a proper and peaceful manner. This serves the fundamental interest of our 2 countries. I believe that we have the wisdom, patience, and courage to settle the disputes to through negotiations and consultations."
The Philippines has filed a case against China over the disputed South China Sea at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague.
Manila wants the tribunal to confirm its right to exploit the waters in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as allowed under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China has refused to participate in the arbitration process.
It has been rejecting the Philippines’ approach on a multi-lateral resolution to the maritime dispute.
The ASEAN, while calling for peace and restraint, has failed to approve a binding code of conduct for the South China Sea.
In response to Zhao's statement, President Aquino reciprocated the call for peace and assured Beijing that the disputes are not the end-all, be-all of Filipino-Chinese relations.
“In my visit to the People’s Republic of China–the state visit of 2011–perhaps one of the most encouraging things that we heard from them, President Hu Jintao was that the disputes that we do have in the sea that borders our respective lands should not be the sum total of our relationships," Aquino said.
"Our relationships are based on so many more things, not just on this dispute, and that peace and stability are necessary components for our own–for everybody’s progress. Now, we did state we are both committed the lot and the circumstances of our peoples, and to hear them reiterated today truly fills our heart. Thank you for the very kind words,” he added.
Aquino also assured Filipino-Chinese businessmen that their businesses shouldn’t suffer anymore from the truck ban in Manila, now that there is an express lane for cargo trucks passing through Manila, Caloocan, Pasay, Makati, and Parañaque.
Aquino also again used the occasion to highlight his difference from his predecessor in the matter of meeting classroom shortages.
“Take, for instance, your ongoing efforts to build classrooms for our public schools. In sum, your federation has donated more than 9,200 classrooms, which have helped address the needs of students all over the nation. Even when my predecessor claimed that there was no more classroom shortage under her administration—a claim only lent truth because they had students come to school in shifts— your federation continued to focus on actually building what was needed. “
Every year, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FFCCCII) and the Filipino-Chinese community celebrate Philippine Independence day in solidarity with the entire nation.
The celebration seeks to promote the spirit of nationalism and encourage citizens to contribute to nation-building, according to event organizers.
The event is attended by more than 1,000 guests including officials of the Philippine government, members of the diplomatic corps, business sector, and representatives of the various Filipino-Chinese associations and organizations.