MANILA – China's new envoy to the Philippines on Tuesday sent his holiday greetings to Filipinos as he looked forward to his first Christmas here, saying ties between Beijing and Manila were becoming 'increasingly close."
In a message released Monday night, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian noted warming ties between China and the Philippines even while the two sides may disagree on certain issues.
He called the current state of Philippine-Chinese relations a "new golden age."
"Looking back on the year, China-Philippines relations have been moving forward steadily. The two countries are committed to peaceful and friendly coexistence. Our economic and trade cooperation has continued to advance, and cultural exchanges have become increasingly close," he said in a message released by the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
"More importantly, in the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences, both sides have been striving to constructively manage and address the differences. Under the strategic leadership of President Xi Jinping and President Duterte, China-Philippine relations have ushered in a new 'golden age'," Huang said.
The Philippines and China are still locked in a dispute over resource-rich South China Sea, where China has continued to assert indisputable sovereignty despite a 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating its excessive 9-dash line claim.
The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has, however, pursued closer trade ties with the economic superpower, securing grants and loans, including those for infrastructure projects.
This has also led to increased Chinese investments in the Philippines, notably in the POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operations) industry, which has led to an influx of Chinese nationals coming to the Philippines for work.
In his message, Huang gave a positive outlook for the coming year, when the two countries will mark the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
He said a series of events for the celebration are in the works, "from political visits to economic cooperation, from cultural events to think tank exchanges."
"I look forward to working closely with my Filipino friends to further promote the China-Philippine relations and bring more tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries. I’d like to pay tribute to those who are committed to the friendship between China and the Philippines, and I count on your continuous support," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte received Huang in Malacañang on Dec. 4, replacing Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, who was known to have developed a friendship with the Filipino leader.