MANILA - China's envoy to the Philippines on Thursday reaffirmed Beijing's support for Manila under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, citing improved ties between the two nations despite the lingering dispute over the South China Sea.
Beijing hailed initiatives undertaken by the two countries in 2017 and lauded Duterte's ambitious infrastructure program dubbed "Build, Build, Build," where Chinese investment is expected to play a key role.
"Under the strategic vision and concerted efforts by both our leaders, China-Philippines relations have been building on the historic turnaround and ushering in a new era, or better known as another 'Golden Era'," Chinese Embassy political counsellor Tan Qingsheng said in a speech Thursday night at a Christmas reception with the media.
He cited how Duterte met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping twice this year in an effort to thaw ties between the Philippines and China, frayed under the previous administration due to the South China Sea dispute.
The two leaders first met in May during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China, and again last month during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting in Vietnam.
"Guided by such spirit, our two countries have taken concrete actions to advance our pragmatic cooperation in such priority areas as infrastructure, production capacity, investment, commerce, trade, agriculture and people-to-people exchange," Tan said.
Duterte has downplayed the disputes as he sought to improve trade and defense ties with Beijing. Under the Philippines' chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year, China agreed to negotiate a Code of Conduct to govern the waters under dispute by six parties.
Meanwhile, China has ignored the Philippines' landmark 2016 arbitral victory that invalidated its sweeping nine-dash line claim over the resource-rich waters. Instead, it has continued to build and fortify artificial islands.
Tan: China growth good news for PH
Tan also noted that stronger domestic growth for China would bring about better opportunities for the Philippines.
"I am convinced that a China that enjoys stronger domestic growth and closer integration with the world will surely bring about opportunities of win-win cooperation for Asia-Pacific and the Philippines in particular," he said.
The Chinese ambassador added that Beijing is also working on the possibility of setting up industrial parks in the Philippines and engaging in more infrastructure projects.
"Please bear in mind that when the Philippines prepares to take off, China would always like to be the wings that give strength," he said.
Tan also touted China's support in the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City and Duterte's fierce crackdown on illegal drugs, saying Beijing has already provided Manila with batches of drug-detecting and testing equipment as well as training programs for law enforcers.
Drug syndicates from China are known to operate in the Philippines.
"Looking forward, we have every reason to synergize our development strategies and carry forward our win-win cooperation, so as to open up a broader and brighter vista for this path of China-Philippines partnership," Tan said.