(Feature) The PHL-China relations: 'Nearby friends work better'

February 21, 2015 12:28 am 

By Kris M. Crismundo

MANILA, Feb. 19 (PNA) — There is an old Chinese saying that “a near friend is better than a far relative.”

And this is how Filipino-Chinese magnate Alfredo M. Yao described the relations between the People's Republic of China and the Philippines in an interview with the Philippines News Agency.

It is clear how the Philippine government embraces and takes good care of its relation with its Asian neighbor China. It even makes the Chinese New Year a special non-working holiday to acknowledge this Chinese celebration and for us, Filipinos, to take part in this Chinese culture.

However, the long history of both countries’ claim to West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and a group of islands on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) was reinstated, forming tensions between the two Asian neighbors, and even with Vietnam — a Southeast Asian brother — which also stakes out a claim to the disputed territories.

China is quite aggressive with its action like setting up an oil rig in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) while the Philippines is taking legal actions by bringing the dispute to international arbitration.

But for Yao, who was the Philippine Special Envoy to China for Tourism and Cooperation during the previous administration, the current situation of the Philippines and China is just a “lovers’ quarrel.”

“Right now, it’s a lovers’ quarrel; tomorrow it will be over. Hopefully it will happen in the near future,” said Yao.

“I’m very positive it will be over. We don’t have any bad relations with China anyway. And we are neighbors. There’s a Chinese saying: Your near friend is better than a far relative,” he added.

The Filipino-Chinese tycoon pointed out that the close relations and the long-time economic ties of the Philippines and China are actually an advantage to work better together.

“We have trade relation with China since the Ming Dynasty. They are coming to the Philippines because of our close distance to them. Since then, China is a good friend to the Philippines,” he said.

“The only thing happening now is our claim on the Spratly [Islands],” he added. “We have claim, they have claim, too. Put that aside, that [dispute] will never happen.”

“Don’t get me wrong; the claims should be there, but set it aside,” he clarified.

In his view, countries with claims over the disputed territories can work together to explore the prospects of the area.

“Why we have dispute over that area? Because there’s something that we don’t know. They say there’s oil, then let’s explore it and operate it economically,” he said.

During the World Economic Forum on East Asia which was hosted by the Philippines in 2014, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Laura Q. Del Rosario urged countries which are involved in the dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) not to take unilateral actions as this will worsen the space for cooperation.

Meanwhile, with the celebration of Chinese New Year this year, Yao wishes the tensions between the Philippines and China to be over and also for the two countries to continue to improve their bilateral relations, particularly in terms of economic ties.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that China remains on the top three trade partners of the Philippines.

Though final imports data are yet to be released next week, Philippine exports to China for 2014 reached USD8 billion, growing by 14.4 percent from 2013’s USD7 billion worth of exports to China.

Also last year, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua told reporters at the sidelines of a meeting with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) that China wants to be the Philippines as its largest trading partner; eyeing more imports from the Philippines, particularly agricultural products.

Former Ambassador Yao is also the current president of PCCI, the country’s largest business organization. (PNA)

SCS/KMC

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