MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to “preserve and build” ties between the Philippines and China as the two nations marked the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic relations on June 9.

In a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping dated June 9, Duterte emphasized the need to strengthen the Philippine-China partnership amid challenges including the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis.

“As the entire world continues to face challenges to security and stability and the rule of law and with the rise of non-traditional emerging threats such as the Covid-19 pandemic, further strengthening Philippine-China partnership takes on even greater significance. We must forge on and ensure that the potential of our special ties is fully realized,” he said.

Duterte said the two nations’ anniversary is an “auspicious time” to reaffirm shared aspirations and the principles they have committed to uphold as enshrined in the Joint Communique signed on June 9, 1975.

“These same sacrosanct principles for peaceful co-existence and mutually beneficial cooperation will remain our lodestar, as we continue to work together as partners under our Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation,” he said.

He also described China as “a close neighbor” and “valued friend”, ensuring Xi of even greater peaceful and friendly cooperation in the coming years.

“As we look ahead to the golden jubilee of our diplomatic ties, I assure Your Excellency of our firm commitment to preserve and build on the gains of our close partnership for greater peace, progress, and prosperity for our nations,” he said.

On Tuesday, Malacañang said the relationship between the Philippines and China is now at the “renaissance” stage, hopeful that the sea row between the two nations would be resolved.

Since he assumed office in 2016, Duterte has opted to pursue friendly bilateral talks to address the maritime row with China.

Duterte, however, said his administration will not waver in defending the country’s interests over the disputed sea amid the renewed partnership with claimant state China.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1975, the bilateral partnership between Manila and Beijing has flourished in terms of security and regional cooperation, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

The two nations are enjoying closer economic and trade relationships under the Duterte administration with China being the Philippines’ top trading partner, the largest source of imports, and the third-largest export market.

China has also provided financial assistance for several major infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

The celebration of the 45th year of diplomatic relations between the two nations coincides with the observance of Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day. (PNA)