Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian Answers Questions on Vaccine, Pragmatic Cooperation and South China Sea
2020/12/11

On 10 December 2020, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian conducted a written interview with Philippine media after the 2020 Online Media Christmas Party. Following is the full text:

1. Q: Do the Chinese vaccine companies have any plans to carry out clinical trials in the Philippines? Can you share with us the latest progress of vaccines in China and the clinical trials in UAE and some other countries?

Amb. Huang: According to the statistics of the World Health Organization, as of December 8, a total of 13 have entered phase III of the clinical trial stage, 5 of which are from Chinese vaccine developers of Sinopharm, Sinovac, CanSino and Anhui Zhifei.

Chinese vaccine companies have been actively carrying out research and development for a COVID-19 vaccine, and the four vaccines from Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino that have entered Phase III clinical trials are progressing smoothly. At present, more than 60,000 volunteers world-wide have been vaccinated without any serious adverse reactions, showcasing excellent safety and efficacy of the vaccines. The III phase of clinical trials of these vaccines are being carried out in more than 10 countries such as the UAE, Brazil, Indonesia, Peru, Argentina, Pakistan, etc., with vaccination population samples covering 125 nationalities, some of which have been or are about to be completed, and the data have been submitted to different regulatory agencies for listing approval. It is worth mentioning that about 1,500 Filipinos participated in the III phase of clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine in the UAE.

Recently, the Philippine government issued a series of practical measures to promote international cooperation in vaccines. We have noted the Philippine government has been negotiating with various vaccine developers including Chinese vaccine enterprises. We are happy to see positive progress in vaccine cooperation between China and the Philippines. I hope Chinese vaccines could contribute to the fight of Filipino government and people against COVID-19 at an early date. China is willing to work with the Philippines to fight the pandemic and help the Philippine economy and society return to normal as soon as possible.

2. Q: In the past year, due to the impact of the COVID-19, the progress of the Philippine government's "Build Build Build" program has slowed down. How is the progress of the relevant projects in which Chinese companies participate?

Despite the impact of COVID-19, China and the Philippines have been steadily pushing forward the synergy between the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the "Build Build Build" program to create new growth points for the Philippine economic recovery. So far, the two countries have completed 11 intergovernmental cooperation projects, covering drug control, anti-terrorism, food security, radio and television services and other fields. Six projects are under implementation and 18 projects are under planning, involving infrastructure such as roads and railways, flood control and irrigation and other livelihood projects.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably exerted some adverse impact on international trade and investment, with China controlling domestic epidemic situation and life returning back to normal, as well as the Philippines’ orderly reopen of economy, Sino-Philippine economic and trade exchanges have recently shown signs of warming up, demonstrating strong resilience and vitality.

According to the latest data from the Philippine side, last September, Philippine exports to China’s mainland leaped by 43.3% to US $1.22 billion year-on-year making China the largest export market, and accounting for nearly 20% of the Philippines’ total export. With such encouraging trend, the monthly year-on-year growth rate of Philippine exports has been shifted from negative to positive for the first time.Over the first three quarters, China remained to be the Philippines' largest trading partner and largest source of imports. And this year China leaps to the second largest export market of the Philippines.

Chinese investment in the Philippines also sees a surge. China Telecom has joined Filipino partners to invest more than 5 billion US dollars in Dito Telco. Panghua Group is putting in 3.5 billion US dollars to build similar steel plant which will bring tens of thousands of jobs to local Filipinos. China’s online learning firm 51talk has introduced over 27,000 Filipino English teachers to teach Chinese students online and is poised to hire another 30,000 Filipinos.

Chinese enterprises have been playing a positive role in stimulating the economy, creating jobs, improving people’s livelihood and providing service to the community in the Philippines. According to incomplete statistics, 50 major Chinese enterprises in the Philippines alone have directly and indirectly created about 40,000 jobs for Filipinos.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Chinese enterprises have donated nearly 10 million pieces of face masks, PPEs and other medical supplies to the Philippines. Recently, several disastrous typhoons have wrecked havoc on the Philippines and Chinese enterprises in the Philippines rushed to lend a helping hand to communities in the affected areas by donated tones of food and other relief supplies.

All in all, economic and trade cooperation between China and the Philippines has achieved tangible results, not only creating a large number of jobs for the Filipinos, but also effectively promoting the economic recovery of the Philippines as it is striving to become an upper middle-income economy by 2022.

3. Q: Recently, some Philippine politicians including President Duterte mentioned the 2016 South China Sea arbitration case several times. Do you feel the change of attitude of the Philippine government on the arbitration issue? China has set to complete the COC consultation within 2021, but affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, how can we ensure that the COC consultation process is completed on schedule? What is China's expectation of the US Biden administration's South China Sea policy?

In 2016, our two presidents reached an important consensus on properly handling the arbitration case, which served as an important foundation for the turnaround of the bilateral relations. China's position on the arbitration case is consistent and clear.We will not accept and participate in the arbitration, nor will accept or recognize the so-called ruling. In recent years, under the strategic guidance of the two presidents, China-Philippines relations have maintained a healthy and stable momentum of development, and exchanges and cooperation in various fields have been steadily promoted. This is in line with the fundamental interests of the two peoples and has also greatly promoted peace and stability in the South China Sea. The two sides have also established a bilateral consultation mechanism(BCM) on the South China Sea issue, returning to the right track of resolving relevant issues through negotiation. We sincerely hope that the Philippines will continue to work with us to safeguard the hard-won overall sound situation of bilateral relations and of peace and stability in the South China Sea.

South China Sea is the common home of China, Philippines, and other ASEAN littoral countries. We have been living together in peace for thousands of years. Peace and stability are China's greatest strategic interests in the South China Sea and the common strategic demands of China and ASEAN countries.

Facts have proved that the US is the biggest driver of the militarization of the SCS and the most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability of the SCS. All regional countries should be vigilant, and prevent the region’s hard-won peace and development from being sabotaged.

China proposed to complete the consultation on the "Code of Conduct for the South China Sea" (COC) by 2021. The pandemic has temporarily delayed the consultation process, but China, the Philippines, as the coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, and other ASEAN countries have been maintaining communication on resuming the COC consultation. Not long ago, an working level online meeting was held successfully. Under the current situation, China hopes that all parties will work harder to speed up the negotiation in a flexible and pragmatic way. China has proposed to hold face-to-face consultations in China once conditions permit to push forward the second reading of the COC.

China is willing to continue to strengthen practical cooperation at South China Sea with the Philippines and promote joint development of oil and gas so as to bring tangible benefits to our two peoples. What is worth paying attention to is that the world has entered the information age, and data has become the most important "oil and gas " in the era of digital economy. China and the Philippines have mutual advantages in the field of digital economy and have a broad room for cooperation. The two countries should not only promote the traditional joint development of offshore oil and gas, but also vigorously expand cooperation in the field of digital economy.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that resolving disputes through dialogue is the right path that is most in line with the interests of the countries in the region, and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea is our common task and aspiration. Regarding the proper handling of the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines, I would like to emphasize several points:

First, we must earnestly implement the principles and consensus reached by the two heads of state on the South China Sea issue. This is the foundation for China-Philippines relations to maintain a healthy and stable development.

Second, we should avoid misjudgment caused by unilateral actions that would complicate the situation in the disputed waters.

Third, we should continue to maintain close communication on maritime issues through existing dialogue channels such as the BCM and avoiding media speculation. At the same time, we should promote the establishment of a bilateral maritime and air liaison mechanism to deal with maritime emergencies in a more timely and effective manner.

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