The Philippines-China relations went at an all-time low during the Aquino administration, former President and incoming Pampanga lawmaker Gloria Arroyo on Friday.
Arroyo made the remark during her induction as one of the Hall of Fame awardees of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding for their "remarkable contributions in promoting friendship between China and the Philippines.
"Sometime six years ago, the Philippine-China relations were at an all-time low since our diplomatic relations was established in 1975. However, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte reversed such a stance, so much so that China's President Xi Jinping went on a state visit here in 2018, the first time that a Chinese President paid us a state visit since 2005," Arroyo said.
"That signaled that we are close buddies and good partners again with a common goal of sustainable growth in an atmosphere of unity and peace," she added.
She was referring to President Rodrigo Duterte, who succeeded the late President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III in 2016.
While Arroyo did not expound on why the relations between the two countries went at an all-time low, it was during the Aquino administration when the Philippines sued China before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration over repeated aggression repeated Chinese aggression against Filipino fisherfolk within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Chinese aggressions included firing a water cannon and a standoff in Scarborough Shoal in 2012.
The Philippines sued China before the Hague in 2013. Three years later in July 2016, the Hague court junked China’s nine-dash line claim of the entire South China Sea which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
The same Hague court ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippines' (EEZ), that the Scarborough Shoal is a common fishing ground and outlawed Chinese forces' aggression in the area against Filipinos.
China, however, has refused to participate in the Hague proceedings and does not recognize the Philippines' unprecedented legal victory to this day.
China's Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, for his part, maintained that China has always sought friendship and peaceful means in dealing with its longtime ally, the Philippines.
He cited that former Philippine President Joseph Estrada penned a Presidential decree establishing the Philippines-China Friendship Week, while his successor Arroyo declared June 9 as Philippine-China Friendship Day.
"Our aspiration for greater understanding and deeper friendship has not changed and will not change," Huang said.—LDF, GMA News