What can 44 years do?

"Let's look back at what the Philippines and China agreed upon on June 9, 1975."


1975. This was the year the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China formally established formal diplomatic relations.

Let’s look back at what the two countries agreed upon on June 9, 1975.

In the joint communiqué signed in Beijing by Chinese Premier Chou En-lai and President Ferdinand Marcos, the two leaders, “desiring to promote the traditional friendship between the Chinese and the Filipino peoples, have decided upon mutual recognition and the establishment of diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level effective from the date of signature of this communiqué.”

Manila and Beijing agreed that “the economic, political and social system of a country should be chosen only by the people of that country, without outside interference” and that the different economic, political and social systems of the two countries “should not constitute an obstacle to peaceful co-existence and the establishment and development of peaceful and friendly relations between the two countries and peoples in accordance with the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit.”

Apart from these, the two governments agreed “to settle all disputes by peaceful means on the basis of the above-mentioned principles without resorting to the use or threat of force”, that “all foreign aggression and subversion and all attempts by any country to control any other country or to interfere in its internal affairs are to be condemned,” and that they “are opposed to any attempt by any country or group of countries to establish hegemony or create spheres of influence in any part of the world.”

Moreover, the two sides agreed to cooperate with each other to achieve the foregoing objectives:

1) The Philippine Government to recognize the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, to fully understand and respect the position of the Chinese Government that there is but one China and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory, and to decide to remove all its official representations from Taiwan within one month from the date of signature of the communiqué;

2) China to recognize the Philippine Government and to respect the independence and sovereignty of the Philippines;

3) The two sides to recognize and to respect each other’s territorial integrity;

4) The two sides to adopt active measures for the development of trade and economic relations between them. They agreed to negotiate and conclude a trade agreement based on their respective needs and on the principles of equality and mutual benefit;

5) The two sides recognized the importance of cultural exchanges in developing mutual understanding and friendship between their two peoples; and

6) The two sides also agreed to exchange mutually accredited ambassadors as soon as practicable and to provide each other with all the necessary assistance for the establishment and performance of the functions of diplomatic missions in their respective capitals in accordance with international practice and on a reciprocal basis.

I asked current Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana via e-mail how he would assess the 44 years of our bilateral relations. Here’s what he told me:

“The establishment of these relations was ahead of its time. In 1975, the Philippines and China were nations of different ideological persuasions. Yet, they refused to see the world merely through the prism of Great Power rivalries. Building on the long fraternal bonds between our two peoples, our two governments chose to engage; and since then we have been cooperating towards the fulfillment of our two peoples’ aspirations: Peace and development.

“In a way, the establishment of diplomatic relations was merely a restoration of old ties. Political contacts between the two nations can be traced back to the era of the Ming Dynasty and the Sulu Sultanate and up to the collaboration between Don Mariano Ponce and Dr. Sun Yat Sen in the early days of our Republic. Economic and cultural contacts have an even longer history. Beginning with the voyage of ancient seafaring Filipinos aboard the balangay that reached Chinese shores many centuries ago, these ties are now sustained by the people-to-people exchanges between the two nations.

“We see the spirit of these fraternal bonds in the personal camaraderie between President Duterte and President Xi. Under their leadership, our relations have achieved the level of Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation. We have managed to separate contentious issues from non-contentious issues; and to advance our bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect as equal sovereign states. Today, China is a valued partner across various fields, including defense and security, trade and investment, infrastructure and connectivity, and science and technology, among many others.

“Yet the development of our bilateral relations depends not only upon leaders and diplomats, but also on the continued friendship among the two peoples, which are sustained by mutual understanding.”

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Topics: Republic of China , Philippines , Diplomatic relations , Jose Santiago Sto Romana
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