MANILA -- China is the Philippines' "sincere and trustworthy friend" and "will never be a rival," Beijing's top diplomat said Monday after meeting his Filipino counterpart in President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown.
Since Duterte reset ties with China, 2-way trade in 2017 alone topped $50 billion while Philippine exports grew 10.5 percent. Over 2 years, China bought 2 million pounds of bananas, pineapples and mangoes, helping 40,000 farmers earn $1.5 billion, said Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
"We stand ready to stand by the Philippines and will always be your most sincere and trustworthy friend," Wang told a joint news conference in Davao City with Department of Foreign Affairs Sec. Teddy Locsin Jr.
"China will firmly support the Philippines in speeding up economic and social development. The Philippines is an important link in the maritime silk road therefore it is a natural partner in jointly developing the Belt and Road," he said.
With Filipinos and Chinese people sharing the same ancestry, Wang said China "has never been, and will never be a rival to the Philippines, even as a threat."
Wang praised Duterte for pursuing an independent foreign policy, overcoming foreign "interruptions and interference" and for "great achievements in national development."
Locsin said: "While recognizing our differences and never compromising our respective core interests, we continue to discuss and explore avenues for maritime cooperation."
The Philippines "holds fast" to its "unwavering commitment" to the DOC or the declaration of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
Through respectful dialogue with each other and with our partners in ASEAN, we are moving forward with astonishing amity in the negotiations toward a code of conduct," he said.
"There is a growing and shared resolve to smoothen the path to what is the natural and mutually beneficial progress of the region," he said.