As the Philippines and China celebrate 45 years of diplomatic ties today, an ambassador from Beijing said that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the two countries closer than ever. The clincher: it turns out quite a number of Pinoys begged to differ.
“True friendship endures trial and hardship. Through joining hands to fight against the COVID-19, the foundation of China-Philippines relations have been further cemented, people-to-people ties strengthened, and the sense of building a community of shared future deepened,” Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said in a statement.
Huang pointed out that Beijing has “shared its hard-earned experience in the fight against the pandemic with the Philippines,” referring to a group of medical experts from China who arrived in the country to help with the coronavirus response, bringing with them medical supplies back in April.
“We have every reason to believe that, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and President [Rodrigo] Duterte, with the concerted participation and support from both governments and peoples, China-Philippines friendship and partnership would embrace an ever better future in the new era,” the ambassador added.
But for many Filipinos, his statement reeks of insincerity, since Beijing has practically occupied the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Samuel Ramos-Jones wrote on the Chinese Embassy’s official Facebook page: “True friends don’t illegally occupy and militarize friends’ maritime features.”
Someone called Komedyanteng Gobyerno (Comedian Government) snarkily wrote, “Happy China Duterte friendship day!”
And Raid Abaya Mahupil summarized his feelings in this GIF.
China has been intimidating Pinoy fishermen in the West Philippine Sea for years, despite a 2016 decision by a Netherlands court that invalidated Beijing’s claims over the area. The Duterte government certainly hasn’t been of much help, whose acquiescence to China’s presence has disappointed many.
Some two months back, a video aired by the Chinese Embassy about the disputed territory drew massive flak and was branded by many as “propaganda.” And just a few weeks ago, a Chinese-centric program airing on a state-owned radio station became the object of public scorn, even moving a lawmaker to call for its cancellation.