Premier Li Keqiang said that China is ready to work with the Philippines to continue to properly handle maritime issues through friendly bilateral consultation. This can be done by giving full play to mechanisms such as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea.
Li made the remarks in a signed article published by The Philippine Star on Sunday, when he arrived in Manila to begin a five-day visit to the country, where he will attend high-level meetings on East Asia cooperation.
The China-Philippines relationship is now seeing a rainbow after the storm and showing good momentum across the board, Li said in the article, adding that he hopes the visit will enhance the friendship between the two peoples, deepen cooperation and open new prospects for China-Philippine ties.
The visit marks the first time a Chinese premier has visited the Philippines in 10 years. Li will meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for bilateral talks, and the two leaders will attend ceremonies marking the opening of several projects that China subsidized.
Starting on Monday, Li will attend a series of high-level leaders' meetings on East Asia cooperation, including the 20th China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders' meeting; the 20th ASEAN-China, Japan and Republic of Korea (10+3) leaders' meeting; and the 12th East Asia Summit during his trip to the Philippines, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN this year.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN, and 2018 will be the 15th anniversary of the China-ASEAN cooperation of strategic partnership.
ASEAN, a regional bloc of 10 Southeast Asian member nations that promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic integration, reached a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion in 2016, equivalent to the sixth largest economy in the world. The theme for this year's summit is "Partnering for Change, Engaging the World".
At the meetings, Li will propose some 30 new initiatives on East Asia cooperation, covering areas including connectivity, infrastructure, poverty alleviation, trade and anti-corruption, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
"This year is of critical importance to East Asia cooperation because all key operations under the frameworks are reaching a crucial stage," said Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.
Also in Manila, Li is expected to attend the leaders' meeting of the 16 nations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed free trade agreement comprised of ASEAN members and other states.
It is the first time that the 16 leaders of RCEP countries will meet for a talk since negotiations started in 2012.