MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday a "win-win cooperation" between the Philippines and China would ensure "greater peace, progress, and prosperity" between the 2 countries.
Duterte said the 46th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two sides this year "reminds us of the deep and abiding friendship between the Filipino-Chinese peoples."
The two countries are locked in a dispute over resource-rich West Philippine Sea, but Duterte has pursued friendly ties with China despite Beijing's continuing incursions within Philippine territory.
"It is a bond that predates, by centuries, the formal establishment of diplomatic relations 46 years ago," Duterte said in a taped message before the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc (FFCCCII) that led a celebration of the event.
"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," he added.
Once frosty ties between Beijing and Manila thawed under Duterte, who has pursued investments and loans from China and shelved an arbitral ruling that junked its expansive claims in the South China Sea, which encroached into Philippine waters.
The maritime dispute flared again in March after some 200 Chinese ships swarmed the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. Beijing denied that the vessels were manned by militia.
At the height of the issue, Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippines has not lost any territory to China under the current administration.
"Iyong kaniyang polisiya na isantabi ang hindi mapagkasunduan, isulong ang pupuwedeng pagkasunduan. Iyan po ay epektibo sa pangangalaga sa integridad ng ating national territory," he said of Duterte's approach towards Beijing.
(His policy is to set aside what is disagreed upon, and push forward with what can be agreed on. That is effective in protecting the integrity of our national territory.)
Duterte last month called the Philippine arbitral victory a scrap of "paper" that he said could be thrown into a wastebasket. He later said he would not pull back Philippine ships from contested waters.