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Despite Covid-19, PH steers Asean-China dialogue

Under the guidance of the Philippines, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China were able to make the most of their dialogue connections even during the global health emergency.

ASEAN member states were quick to respond to the initial virus epidemic in Wuhan province when the first coronavirus sickness 2019 case was reported.

“We set out with a bold goal in mind: to strengthen this bond and offer its benefits to our people. Regrettably, the pandemic swiftly tempered what might be accomplished. Instead, Asean and China refocused their efforts on the world’s most serious crisis and the relationship’s demands “In a virtual forum organized by the Association for Philippines-China Understanding on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro remarked.

“We were able to make the most of the scenario and still get a few things done thanks to the Philippines’ proactive approach and close collaboration with China,” she added.

As the virus ravaged underdeveloped countries, China offered medical resources, knowledge, and vaccines to neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Despite the changes brought on by the epidemic, Lazaro said the two countries collaborated in various areas, including the digital economy, cybersecurity, and ensuring regional peace and security.

On the South China Sea issue, Lazaro stated that talks between ASEAN and China to draft a code of conduct (COC) are ongoing.

“The Philippine team was instrumental in streamlining the COC text, rearranging and reclassifying the text, and driving discussions on key issues that will determine the success of the COC negotiations,” she said. “Even though the Philippines has handed over the country coordinatorship and co-chairing of the COC negotiations to Myanmar, we have pledged to continue actively engaging in the COC negotiations.”

From 2019 to August of this year, the Philippines served as the country coordinator for Asean-China dialogue ties, handing up the co-chairmanship to Myanmar.

30 years of collaboration

Meanwhile, ASEAN deputy secretary-general Kung Phoak anticipates a “promising future” for trade and investment cooperation between Asean and Beijing, particularly if the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is implemented.

“The RCEP will pave the path for us to work even more closely together in the future,” he said.

According to the latest Asean data, overall merchandise trade between the two countries reached USD516.9 billion in 2020, up 1.8 percent year on year despite the difficult trading environment induced by Covid-19.

China’s FDI flows to ASEAN were USD7.6 billion in 2020, accounting for 5.5 percent of the region’s overall FDI and placing China as the fourth largest source of FDI among Asean’s dialogue partners.

For the past 12 years, China has been Asean’s main commercial partner.

As the two countries celebrate their 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian stated that Beijing will continue to prioritize Asean in its regional diplomacy.

“China has been a strong supporter of Asean unity and the development of the Asean Community, ensuring Asean’s primacy in regional architecture. We have worked tirelessly for the past 30 years to promote regional development and wealth, as well as peace and stability “he stated, “We hope that the China-Asean relationship will continue to flourish and usher in a new era of regional cooperation.”

According to the Chinese Embassy in Manila, a historic commemoration summit between China and Asean would be held soon.

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