Manila, Jul 6 (EFE).- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hailed a “new golden era” of relations with the Philippines Wednesday, after the lawmaker became the first foreign dignitary to visit the nation following Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr’s recent electoral win.
In a statement after meeting with his Philippines counterpart, Enrique Manalo, the Chinese minister, who arrived in Manila Tuesday night, thanked Marcos for describing China last month as the nation’s strongest partner.
Wang, who is on a Southeast Asian tour that has seen him visit Myanmar and Thailand ahead of the Bali G20 in November, said strengthening relations was more necessary than ever and that strong ties would ensure stability in the region.
Manalo recognized the importance of Manila’s alliance with the Asian giant as the world continues to recover from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Manila’s attempts to maintain a healthy relationship with Beijing come amid a territorial dispute between the two nations over the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in the South China Sea close to the Philippine coastline which the Asian giant claims as its own for “historical” reasons.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague (PCA) ruled that China’s claim to the disputed islands has “no legal basis”, ruling in favor of Manila, but Beijing has refused to abide by the decision.
On Tuesday, Bongbong Marcos told reporters of the need to “find ways to resolve the conflicts” with China in order to “normalize our ties after years of maritime disputes.”
In recent weeks, tension between the two countries has flared due to China’s unilateral declaration of a fishing ban in the area and over complaints that Chinese vessels were harassing Philippine fishing boats, which sparked diplomatic protests from Manila.
The South China Sea is a strategic enclave that is home to one of the busiest trade routes in the world, with a third of sea trade passing through the region, according to United Nations Conference for Trade and Development data. EFE