MANILA (UPDATED)- For former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the golden age of relations between the Philippines and China began under her administration and reached new heights under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The incumbent chief executive, for his part, also celebrated the relationship between the 2 countries on Wednesday.
This, as the Philippines continues to protest the encroachment of China into the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, 90 percent of which is being claimed by Beijing.
A UN-backed court invalidated China's overwhelming claims, which Bejining continues to disregard.
Speaking at the 46th anniversary of Philippines-China Diplomatic Relations and the 20th Filipino Chinese Friendship Day hosted virtually by the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Duterte said the event reminds the Philippines of its "deep and abiding friendship" with China.
"It is a bond that predates by centuries, the formal establishment of diplomatic relations 46 years ago... As we approach the 50th Anniversary of Philippines-China ties, win-win cooperation will ensure that our relations remain a partnership for greater peace, progress and prosperity," according to Duterte.
Arroyo, meanwhile, said the friendship between 2 nations "enhanced the mutually beneficial relations."
'[It] contributes to the peace and harmony in the Asia-Pacific region. That is the significance of my presidential proclamation declaring June 9 of every year as Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day," she said.
"I hope the federation will continue to be the moving force on the private sector side not only to boost cooperation in trade, tourism and investments with China, but more importantly to spread friendship, understanding and the goal of mutual economic progress that have bound our two peoples together," she added.
Arroyo said the relationship between the 2 countries is important.
“Philippines-China relations are important. One major reason is geography. The Philippines and China located within each other’s backyards so to speak so good relations between neighbors is always a priority.”
She added that the Philippines has a "vibrant Filipino-Chinese community for whom business dealings with China are natural."
The Arroyo administration came under fire amid corruption scandals such as the NBN-ZTE deal and the NorthRail project.
Her administration’s Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China has been blamed by critics for giving undue access to China to Philippine waters.
Frosty ties between Beijing and Manila thawed under Duterte, who has pursued investments and loans from China.
"Philippines-China economic ties are of course the dynamic force that will continue to drive our bilateral relations forward," Duterte said in a statement.
In April, the Philippines filed diplomatic protests against China over the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters and declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province, “violating international law and Philippine sovereignty.”
ASEAN foreign ministers and China, meanwhile, agreed during a meeting on Monday to exercise restraint in the South China Sea and avoid actions that could escalate tensions.