In 2013, the Philippines was named “country of honor” at the China ASEAN Expo in the Chinese city of Nanning. But Philippine officials say President Benigno Aquino was not invited to the event last year or this year. They say he is not welcome because of an arbitration case against China. The Philippine government launched the case to fight China’s claim that it controls much of the South China Sea.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila refused a Voice of America request to discuss the relationship between the two countries. But some experts say the dispute over territory is making relations difficult.
Rommel Banlaoi is executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research in Manila. He says the sea dispute is hurting relations.
“It’s still in a very sour political state. The relationship is still at its lowest point.”
A Philippine Foreign Affairs official says an agreement in 2011 between President Aquino and then-President Hu Jintao guides the countries’ relationship. Charles Jose is a Foreign Affairs spokesman.
“Both countries should not let the territorial dispute affect the overall relationship. So on the part of the Philippines, we are willing to extract and isolate our territorial dispute and deal with this separately, but at the same time we try to promote and strengthen the other areas of our cooperation with China.”
The spokesman also said that tourism and trade between the two countries remains strong. Official Philippine records show the number of Chinese visiting the Philippines has sharply increased over the last three years. And, Philippine exports to China were higher than imports from China in 2011 and 2013.
But in 2012, Philippine exports suffered because China announced restrictions on banana imports. Observers say the limits may have been linked to the disagreement about rights to the South China Sea.
And Mr. Banlaoi of the Philippine Institute says more Filipinos still invest in China than the other way around.
Some observers have said the current tense relationship between the Philippines and China will not change soon. The main reason, they say, is because the Aquino administration is seeking to expand its military relationship with the United States.
Renato De Castro of De La Salle University in Manila says Chinese officials do not trust that relationship.
“For them President Aquino and Foreign Secretary [Albert] del Rosario are basically pro-Americans. That’s how they view it… they’re puppets. They’re being manipulated by the United States. If they’re removed, if they’re gone, everything will go well.”
Mr. De Castro said China is simply waiting until the end of Aquino’s term in 2016. Then, he said, they hope they can return to normal relations with the Philippines.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Simone Orendain reported this story from Manila. Kelly Jean Kelly wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in The News
sour - adj. unpleasant or unfriendly
extract - v. to remove
isolate - v. to keep separate from others
manipulate - v. to control in a clever and usually unfair or selfish way
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