MANILA — Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian remained mum on the backlash at his recent pronouncements blasting the United States' expanded access to Philippine military bases and its possible effect on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Taiwan.
Huang on Wednesday attended the International Chinese Language Day celebration at the Jose Abad Santos High School in Binondo, Manila, but did not respond to queries from reporters about his remarks last Friday.
"The Chinese Embassy said you were misquoted last Friday. Would you like to please clarify?" a reporter asked Huang, who declined to answer and walked away, ending the interview.
However, he thanked the Department of Education (DepEd) and other Philippine schools for "extending support to Chinese language teaching."
"We appreciate all the efforts by the Department of Education, by all the schools who have been extending support to Chinese language teaching, thank you so much. And as I've said to those boys and girls, the China-Philippine friendship, [has lasted] for centuries if not [millennia], and [that] friendship should be cherished," he said.
Huang's remarks on the 4 new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites have prompted various reactions from government officials, with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. saying he would talk to the Chinese envoy on the matter.
Marcos said Huang's pronouncements may have been "lost in translation."
The Chinese Embassy in Manila said Huang was "misquoted" in his speech, where he told the Philippines to "oppose Taiwan independence... if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs."
"Some tried to find excuse for the new EDCA sites by citing the safety of the 150,000 OFWs in Taiwan, while China is the last country that wishes to see conflict over the Strait because people on both sides are Chinese," the official transcript of Huang's speech read.
"But we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. This is to guard against external interference and all separatist activities," it further read.
Some security analysts and a retired general have described Huang's remarks as a "veiled threat."
The Chinese government earlier noted that 2 of the new EDCA sites were located in Cagayan province at the northernmost tip of Luzon, just a few hundred kilometers away from Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island that China claims as part of its territory.