Manila, Jul 5 (EFE).- Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was visiting the Philippines on Tuesday and Wednesday in what is the first official visit by a senior foreign diplomat since Ferdinand Marcos Jr was sworn into office as Philippine president last week.
Newly appointed Philippine foreign minister Enrique Manalo, who will receive his Chinese counterpart, said in a statement that the visit would focus on “maintaining and building on the positive trend of relations” between China and the Philippines.
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines confirmed Wang’s visit to Manila and said the official trip reflects the importance China places in its relationship with the Philippines.
The Chinese Embassy said Wang and Manalo would discuss practical cooperation and regional and international issues during their meetings.
China and the Philippines are involved in a territorial dispute over the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in the South China Sea close to the Philippine coastline, but 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.
It is unclear which direction Marcos Jr’s government, which took office on Thursday after sweeping elections in May, will take in its foreign policy, but Marcos did make it clear before being sworn in that he would defend the territorial sovereignty of the islands “in every possible way”, pointing to the ICC ruling as justification.
The reference to the ruling by the international court marks a shift in the Philippines’ position on China’s territorial claims, with the previous president, Rodrigo Duterte, largely avoiding condemning Beijing or celebrating the ICC decision against China.
Philippine foreign policy pivoted towards China under Duterte, who relied on Beijing to finance his government’s ambitious infrastructure program, to the detriment of the US, its main historical ally. EFE