MANILA - All China-led projects in the Philippines will continue as planned, its envoy to Manila said Tuesday, despite a US sanction on Chinese firms' involvement in the militarization of the disputed South China Sea.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian described the participation of the Chinese companies and associated officials in domestic construction activities as "legitimate, lawful and beyond reproach."
"The move by the US side, under the pretext of protecting the South China Sea, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs and aims to drive a wedge between China and regional countries," he said in a statement.
The US government in August blacklisted 24 Chinese companies for taking part in building artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
The companies were placed on the US Department of Commerce's "Entity List," which allows it to block exports of US goods and materials to them. Individuals associated with the South China Sea operations will also be unable to obtain visas to visit the United States.
In his statement, Huang also praised the Duterte administration for charting "an independent foreign policy course" and pursuing "national interest" after allowing the construction of the Sangley Airport in Cavite.
"We believe that the pursuit of an independent foreign policy is in line with the fundamental interests of the Philippines and its people," he said.
The airport project is part of the Duterte administration's ambitious multitrillion-peso infrastructure program, "Build, Build, Build" that seeks to transform the country's economy.
Huang said the "cooperation between China and the Philippines has always been based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win results."
He also claimed that China's "Belt and Road" trade and infrastructure investment plan and "Build, Build, Build" program had yielded "fruitful results" to both nations.
"Chinese companies have made important contributions in this endeavor. I believe that any attempt to undermine the normal economic cooperation between China and the Philippines will never succeed," he said.
Since Duterte took office in 2016, he has adopted friendly ties to China in pursuit of improved economic ties, throwing Philippines' longstanding relationship with traditional ally the US.