CHINA on Wednesday said it would continue bilateral relations with the Philippines as the country transitions to a new government. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in a statement said China would stay committed to the friendship of both nations, focus on post-pandemic growth, expand cooperation and bring more tangible benefits to both parties. 

“China congratulated the Philippines on the smooth presidential election,” he said. “Our congratulations also go to the leading candidates.” 

“We hope and believe that various political forces in the Philippines will continue to work in solidarity for national renewal and development,” he added. 

Presidential frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. is expected to keep the country’s close ties with China, which President Rodrigo R. Duterte started. 

Mr. Duterte had ignored the country’s arbitral victory against China in exchange for infrastructure pledges from its neighbor. The tough-talking leader also agreed to pursue a joint exploration with China in the South China Sea. 

The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas. 

During the campaign period, Mr. Marcos said he would seek a bilateral agreement with China to resolve differences in the disputed waters. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan