MANILA - The Philippines' social welfare department has received 2,000 metric tons of rice donated by China, meant to aid those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and disasters.
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rolando Bautista expressed gratitude for the donation, saying that the “invaluable gift” is vital in providing assistance to families affected by disasters and lockdowns amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“It is our fervent hope that we remain allies and continue to strengthen our collaborative efforts in combating the impacts of the pandemic and calamities. Let us work together in further uplifting the quality of life of our people,” Bautista said.
Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said this third shipment of rice donation is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge of 10,000 metric tons of rice to President Rodrigo Duterte.
So far, 6,150 metric tons of rice have already arrived in the Philippines, helping nearly one million families, said Huang.
The remaining 3,850 metric tons of rice donation are expected to arrive within the year, said the diplomat.
China, he said, has “spared no effort” in providing needed supplies to help the Philippines in difficult times.
“During the phone call with President Duterte last August, President Xi Jinping said that China always values integrity and keeps his word to friend," said Huang.
"With joint efforts of our two sides, we will do our utmost to accomplish the delivery all the 10,000 metric tons of rice within this year. We hope the rice will be distributed for those in need in the fastest way,” he added.
Huang said his government is willing to share its experiences and technology with the Philippines to contribute to its economic development and improve livelihood.
China and the Philippines are locked in a maritime dispute over the South China Sea, where the smaller West Philippine Sea is located, the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the resource-rich waters.
On Wednesday, the Philippines' foreign ministry announced protesting Beijing's "unlawful issuance of over 200 radio challenges, sounding of sirens, and blowing of horns" against Philippine authorities "conducting legitimate, customary, and routine patrols over and around" its "territory and maritime zones."
Beijing maintains a constant presence of coast guard and fishing boats in the international waterway to assert its claim of sovereignty, including hundreds in the Spratly islands, where Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia also have claims.
This is despite the Arbitral Tribunal in 2016 concluding that there is no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within its so-called "nine-dash line.”