Malacañang on China dispute: Aquino has Chinese roots

Paterno Esmaquel II
Malacañang on China dispute: Aquino has Chinese roots
The presidential palace downplays the bitter sea dispute as President Benigno Aquino III is set to mark the 40th anniversary of Philippine-China relations

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Monday, June 8, capitalized on the Chinese roots of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III as it downplayed Aquino’s statements likening China, one of the Philippines’ biggest trading partners, to Nazi Germany. 

In a media briefing, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government can easily “relate with our Chinese friends.” 

For one, he said, it is not difficult for Aquino to relate to the Filipino Chinese, “he himself being a descendant also of Chinese ancestry.”

Aquino traces his roots in Hongjian village in China’s Fujian province, which he visited in 2011. His mother, former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, came from the line of Chinese immigrant Co Yu Hwan, who moved to the Philippines in 1861.

In 2013, Aquino would become the first president to approve bringing China to court over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Two years later, he would also compare China to Nazi Germany – twice – as China builds artificial islands in the disputed waters. 

His comments agitated China, which said it is “deeply shocked at, strongly dissatisfied with, and opposed to the absurd remarks made by the Philippine leader.”

The Chinese descendant who became Philippine president, however, said “we’re just standing up for our rights.”  (READ: Aquino after Nazi jab: No intention to hurt China

‘Multi-level relationship’

Still, Lacierda, who himself comes from a Chinese family, said he wants to “enhance a warm relationship between China and the Philippines” despite their sea dispute. 

“We have a multi-level relationship with China,” Lacierda said, citing  trade, cultural, and people-to-people exchanges with the rising superpower. 

“The discussions on the South China Sea is just one of those,” he added. 

He also said the Philippines and China have a “long history of relations.”

Lacierda made these statements before the Philippines marks on Tuesday, June 9, the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China. 

Aquino will mark this event on Monday evening at an event organized in Pasay City by Filipino-Chinese businessmen – a celebration also of the the Philippines’ 117th Independence Day and the 14th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day.

The West Philippine Sea dispute brought Philippines-China relations to its lowest point in decades.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, however, earlier emphasized that the Philippines and China “are destined to be friends and partners.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.