Manila eyes closer cooperation with China
Published: Feb 27, 2019 10:08 PM

Global Times' Editor in Chief Hu Xijin (second right) talks with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (second left) during an interview in Manila on Wednesday. Photo: Hu Xinyu/GT

The Philippines wishes to develop sound relations with China while managing differences on the South China Sea issue, said a senior Phillipine official on Wednesday.

"There is no reason why we cannot go round the reefs issue for cooperation," said Phillipine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in an exclusive interview with the Global Times.

Since Philippine President Duterte took office, China and the Philippines have re-engaged in dialogue and consultation for the proper handling of the South China Sea issue, leading to a great rapprochement in bilateral relations. In more than two years, China has become the Philippines' largest trading partner, largest export market and largest source of imports, and the second largest source of tourists. 

The Philippine will "not concede an inch of its territory," but "there is something bigger" between China and the Philippines than a few "little rocks." He said when global warming and the rising ocean were discussed in the United Nations, everyone thinks it's a tragedy. He is the only one thinks the other way around. "I look forward to one day it swallows the reefs [disputed between China and the Philippines,]" he said.  

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Photo: Yu Jincui/GT

With the Philippines and China getting closer, some in the Philippines accused President Rodrigo Duterte of being weak in dealing with China. Locsin dismissed such accusations, emphasizing Duterte is a "strong president" for the Philippines. Duterte knows what to do is best for the Philippines. 

China and the Philippines must have closer cooperation in areas they can mutually benefit and Manila must seize the opportunity of the Belt and Road initiative to connect the economy of the Philippines with the outside of the world, he said. 

Locsin also spoke highly of China's achievements in lifting poverty over the past few decades, hoping the Philippines can learn experiences from China in poverty lifting. He told the Global Times that he will visit China in two weeks, during which, he will try to cement good relations with China.  

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the Philippines from Thursday to Friday. The two-day visit comes amid some rabble-rousing over the closer ties between Beijing and Manila and is highlighted by a meeting with Locsin. 

The US is Philippines' military ally while China is the country's biggest trading partner. Locsin emphasized that the Philippines has to depend on the US for national defense, but defense and economic benefits are two things that can be separated.  
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