Duterte assures China's Xi of 'firm commitment' to diplomatic ties
MANILA- The COVID-19 pandemic shows the "greater significance" of nourishing the Philippines relationship with China, President Rodrigo Duterte told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as the two nations marked 45 years of diplomatic ties.
Duterte, in a June 9 letter to Xi, affirmed Manila's commitment to strengthen the relationship with Beijing as the pandemic, which began in China, continues to upend the stability of the world.
"As the entire world continues to face challenges to security and stability and the rule of law and with the rise of non-traditional and emerging threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic, further strengthening Philippines-China partnership takes on even greater significance," Duterte said in his letter.
"We must forge on and ensure that the potential of our special ties is fully realized," he added.
Xi, for his part, said he values China's ties with the Philippines.
"I attach great importance to the development of China-Philippines ties," Xi was quoted as saying by Chinese state-run agency Xinhua.
While leaders such as US President Donald Trump have criticized China over the pandemic, Duterte has been supportive of Beijing even thanking the East Asian nation for its support to the Philippines during the crisis.
Ties between China and the Philippines flourished under President Duterte, who sought to distance Manila from its traditional ally, the United States.
Duterte had also refused to flaunt Manila's victory before a UN-backed arbitration court that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims in the South China Sea.
Despite this, the two nations remain locked in a maritime dispute over the South China Sea as Beijing continues to ramp up its militarization efforts in the area.
Duterte also described China as a "close neighbor and valued friend," saying the Philippines is committed to preserve the "close partnership" of the two nations.
"As we look ahead to the golden jubilee of our diplomatic ties, I assure Your Excellence of our firm commitment to preserve and build on the gains of our close partnership for greater peace, progress and prosperity for our nations," Duterte said.