MANILA (UPDATE) - Presumptive Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. is regarded by Chinese President Xi Jinping as "a builder, supporter and promoter of" the two countries' friendship, Beijing's embassy in Manila said Wednesday.
The two had a phone conversation earlier in the day during which Xi congratulated Marcos as unofficial tallies of votes cast during the May 9 polls show the latter as the likely successor of President Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration forged friendlier relations with Beijing amid a lingering maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
"(Xi) stressed that Mr Marcos has participated in and witnessed the development of China-Philippines relations, calling Mr Marcos a builder, supporter and promoter of the China-Philippines friendship," the Chinese embassy said in a Facebook post.
The Chinese leader "urged both countries to carry forward the friendship of the two sides and stay true to their original aspiration," it added.
Marcos, in a separate statement, described his conversation with Xi as "very good and very substantial."
"Sinabi ko sa kaniya (Xi) sa aking palagay, the way forward is to expand our relationship not only diplomatic, not only trade, but also in culture, even in education, even in knowledge, even in health to address whatever minor disagreements that we have right now," he said.
'MUST NOT ALLOW CONFLICTS TO BECOME HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT'
“At sinabi ko sa kaniya (Xi) we must not allow what conflicts or difficulties we have now between our two countries to become historically important," added the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator.
The Chinese Embassy said Xi agreed that "the two countries should also grasp the general trend, write a grand story on the China-Philippines friendship in the new era."
The family of former President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. has been criticized for allegedly rewriting the Philippines' history by downplaying human rights abuses committed during his dictatorial rule and presenting it on social media as the country's golden era.
Marcos said Xi acknowledged the role of his father in opening China’s economy to and relations with other countries.
"The relationship between China and the Philippines is very, very important (not just) as a matter of foreign relations but also, there is an added facet because the opening of diplomatic relationships with People's Republic of China and the Philippines as started by my father should continue to grow," he said.
"We are both looking forward to having further dialogues. And he stressed that they should be bilateral. Sabi niya kaming dalawa ang mag-uusap, ‘wag na ‘yung iba,'" he added.
Marcos previously said that Duterte was employing "the right way" towards Beijing.
Ahead of the campaign season, he also said he would engage China over the South China Sea issue while taking care not to get into a shooting war with Beijing if he is elected President.
Asked about his foreign policy, Marcos had said he would continue to pursue an independent one like Duterte.
Aside from bilateral ties, Xi and Marcos also discussed on Wednesday developments in the region, the embassy's statement read.
Last week, the embassy called Marcos last week to congratulate him, expressing confidence that ties between the two countries would be "stronger" under the incoming administration.
Officials of Congress, which is tasked to canvass the votes for presidential and vice presidential candidates in the May 9 polls, have said they are eyeing to proclaim the winning pair before the month ends.
The Philippines has repeatedly protested China's incursions in the West Philippine Sea, which is part of the South China Sea, a strategic waterway where billions-worth of trade pass by annually.
Beijing's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea had been adjudged in 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to have no legal basis. It continues to disregard the ruling.