UPDATED - Amid mended ties between China and the Philippines, Chinese President Xi Jinping extended his well wishes to President Rodrigo Duterte as the latter celebrated his 73rd birthday on Holy Wednesday, March 28.

In a congratulatory letter, Xi took note of the improving relations between Beijing and Manila under Duterte's leadership.

"Over the past year, the China-Philippines relations have experienced a turnaround and are being further consolidated and deepened," Xi told Duterte in his letter released by the Chinese Embassy to the Philippines on Tuesday, March 27.

"Our bilateral relations have enjoyed ongoing betterment and improvement and reaped productive outcomes, which brought tangible benefits to our two peoples and promoted peace and stability of the region," he added.

Duterte has been outspoken over his special preference to bolster the Philippines' bilateral ties with China, which he considers a "friend" despite Manila and Beijing's overlapping claims over the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese leader acknowledged Duterte's role to improve the relationship between the two countries.

Xi also recounted his previous meetings with Duterte, which led to advancing bilateral relations and deepening practical cooperation.

"I attach great significance to the growth of China-Philippines relations, and stand ready to work with you to carry forward sustained and in-depth growth of China-Philippines relations and bring about more benefits to our countries and peoples," he said.

In 2016, Duterte met with Xi during his visit to Beijing and at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. The two leaders also met at the launch of the Belt and Road Forum in 2017.

Duterte is expected to “quietly” celebrate his birthday in his hometown Davao City, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said.

Roque, in his birthday greeting, said the nation is fortunate to have Duterte, given his "strong political will" and "decisive leadership" to move the country to progress and prosperity.

"Today, the father of the nation is celebrating one of the most important occasions in his life. Our country’s leader, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, is turning a year older," the presidential spokesman said in a statement.

"On this day, we are reminded of how blessed we are as a nation to be headed by someone who is known for his strong political will, decisive leadership and compassion for his fellowmen. I join the people in wishing our President a happy birthday!" he added.

Roque wished Duterte to have "more healthy years ahead" as he holds the highest position in the land and serves his fellow countrymen.

former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for her part, thanked Duterte for his trailblazing leadership and service to the Filipino people and also "for the years of real friendship."

"I wish you fortitude and the best of health so you can continue instituting your programs for real change for our country. You have my unwavering support. God bless you and your family," she added.

Oposition lawmaker Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin also shared his wishes for the President to the media.

"May he have a heart in right place, no more bluster and bravado, to let peace reign inside of him. May he accept that all lives matter for that is our reason for being, our humanity," Villarin said.

"And may he live longer to account for all that he has done and failed not to do," he added. (With Keith A. Calayag/SunStar Philippines)