By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

Chinese President Xi Jinping assured President Rodrigo Duterte that the Philippines, as a “friendly neighbor” to China, would be a “top priority” once it completes Covid-19 vaccine development, Malacañang said Friday.

Xi made the assurance over a phone call on the Philippines’ 122nd Independence Day, the Palace said.

“President Xi reiterated China’s commitment to the international community to make any vaccine it develops a global public good and that as a friendly neighbor, China certainly considers the Philippines as a priority,” a Malacañang statement read.

Xi also said there would be continued supply of critical medical supplies and equipment and free flow of goods and services to complete priority infrastructure cooperation projects in the Philippines, the Palace said.

The two leaders also discussed strategies to restart their respective economies and committed to work together in “further strengthening bilateral, regional and global efforts to combat Covid-19, and underscored the importance of international solidarity to effectively address the pandemic’s health and socioeconomic impact,” Malacañang said.

The two leaders reviewed Philippines-China ties as both celebrated the 45th anniversary of democratic relations, the Palace said.

Xi extended his greetings to Duterte and the Filipino people on the celebration of Philippine Independence Day.

“I believe the Filipino people will certainly carry forward the spirit of unity and cooperation, successfully overcome the pandemic situation as soon as possible and restore production and living order,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila quoted Xi as saying.

Relations between Manila and Beijing have warmed after Duterte decided to shelve a 2016 international arbitration victory that invalidated Chinese claims over the disputed South China Sea, over greater economic ties between the two countries.