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Philippines seeking Canada's help to avoid 'great power rivalry' between China, U.S.

The foreign minister of the Philippines wants closer business and military ties with Canada, saying the two countries can help maintain the post-war order in the Indo-Pacific by maintaining peaceful relations with both the U.S. and China.

"The future of our region should not be determined by the great power rivalry," Enrique Manalo, the secretary of foreign affairs for the Philippines said in an interview last week.

"Today's world is a lot different than it was after the Second World War, when you had a clear distinction between the West and the East. Now, you have a much more competitive world — and our relationships are more complex."

Manalo visited Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa this month to mark 75 years of bilateral relations, meeting with federal ministers for trade, immigration, aid and diplomacy.

His goal is to keep up the momentum that followed the Liberals' release of their Indo-Pacific strategy in late 2022.

"Our relationship has really grown in the past two years, compared to where it was, let's say, five or 10 years ago," said Manalo.

His visit came amid heightened tensions between the Philippines and China over maritime boundaries.

A global court ruled in 2016 that Beijing's claims over a large swath of the South China Sea lacked a legal basis, a finding the Chinese government disputes.

The Philippines sees that ruling as key to maintaining its sovereignty and securing income for fishers, Manalo said.

Vina Nadjibulla, the research vice-president for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, said that the Philippines has a policy of publicly calling out any incident where it believes China is violating its territory, unlike some other Asian countries that tend to keep quiet.

Last week, the Philippines' national security adviser called for Chinese diplomats to be expelled over the apparent leak of a phone call between military officials in both countries.

And earlier, in March, Chinese coast-guard ships hit a Philippine supply boat with water cannons near a disputed shoal, which Manila said caused injuries to its seamen and a wooden vessel.

The U.S. immediately called out Beijing for the confrontation, and Canada has similarly chided China