CHINESE State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday said he expects relations between China and the Philippines to reach a “golden era” under the Marcos administration.

“I’m confident that with both sides working together, we can surely open up a new golden era for the bilateral relationship,” he said in Chinese during a meeting with Philippine envoys in Pasay City near the capital, a voice recording of which was sent to reporters by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The Chinese state councilor was the first foreign counterpart to be received by newly appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo, who used to be the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, when he arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday.

Mr. Wang said he appreciates Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who called China the country’s “strongest partner.”

“He hopes to deepen and build an even stronger relationship with China, so we are ready to work towards that same direction with the Philippines and to plan for our cooperation moving forward, in all areas of our comprehensive strategic partnership,” he said.

Mr. Marcos has called China the Philippines’ strongest partner in pandemic recovery efforts. In an earlier event, he said the Philippine-China relationship is “very important” and “advantageous to both countries.”

As the political, economic and sociocultural landscapes shift, regional security has become more complex, Mr. Manalo said at the meeting. “We also find ourselves rebuilding after the pandemic, which has ravaged our economies as well as our efforts to reach development goals.”

He added that he expects exchanges with China to benefit both nations, noting that China has been a good friend and close partner of the Philippines in recovery efforts.

“We have stood shoulder to shoulder in times of great difficulty, helping one another so that we may both bring progress to our respective nations,” he said.

“Given the current circumstances, in particular as you have mentioned, the uncertain, unstable and complex regional and international dynamics, it is even more important for China and the Philippines, as two close neighbors, to join hands to further enhance mutual trust, expand mutually beneficial cooperation,” Mr. Wang said.

“This will not only serve the common interest of the two countries and the two peoples, but will also be an important contribution to the peace and stability of our region,” he added.

He noted that under the leadership of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Philippine-China relations overcame all sorts of difficulties, achieved a turnaround and grew stronger.

Mr. Duterte led a pivot away from the United States toward China when he became president in 2016 by seeking closer trade investment ties with its neighbor.

The cooperation, which Mr. Wang said has become more dynamic, brought tangible benefits to both the Chinese and Filipino people.

“I hope that our two sides can work together to add new relevance to this relationship of comprehensive strategic cooperation in the new era and build this relationship into one that is capitalized by good neighbors, good relatives and good partners,” he said.

Mr. Marcos on Tuesday said he would meet with Mr. Wang to discuss ways to strengthen ties with China and find ways to resolve their sea dispute. “Let’s do other things too that will normalize our relationship,” he added.

Mr. Manalo and Mr. Wang witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation between the Stock Exchanges of the Philippines and China, the DFA tweeted separately.

Philippine Stock Exchange President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Monzon and Deng Jun, country head of Bank of China’s Manila branch, signed the deal that seeks to promote bilateral investment and trade through capital market linkages between the two nations.  

The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Philippines in May filed a diplomatic protest against China for its unilateral imposition of a three-and-half-month fishing ban in some areas of the South China Sea.

The Philippines has “sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the disputed areas of the waterway, the DFA said in a diplomatic note dated May 30, citing the country’s 2016 arbitral award by a United Nations (UN)-backed tribunal that invalidated China’s claim to more than 80% of the sea.

China has ignored the ruling.

The fishing ban is expected to last until Aug. 16.

DFA had also summoned a senior Chinese Embassy official as it accused Beijing of harassing a research vessel near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.

The shoal, which the Philippines calls Ayungin, forms part of its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, DFA said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan