Reconnection and boosting Philippine economic ties, these sum up the Philippines’ agenda with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s attendance in the upcoming Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation on May 14-15, 2017 in Beijing, according to Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana in an interview.
According to Ambassador Sta. Romana, the Philippines could gain a lot from China with its bilateral relations restored. Citing how this invitation from Chinese President Xi Jin Ping could place the Philippine strategically in promoting economic cooperation among ASEAN member states. He added that China, with Philippines under President Duterte, has extended its hand in restoring ties with the Philippines through billions worth of Overseas Development Assistance (ODAs) that targets infrastructure development in the country. Moreover, agriculture imports from the Philippines to China has likewise been revived and that there is now an influx of Chinese tourists visiting the Philippines.
While there is still a disparity on proportions when it comes to Chinese investors investing in the Philippines, he hopes that with this renewed partnership, it will pave way in the creation of economic zones that would be attractive for foreign investors to transfer and expand their business in the Philippines, that in turn would result in job creation particularly in the locality. However, he notes that the challenge now is to translate these plans—the multibillion worth of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) and Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) signed— into something tangible that the Filipinos could actually enjoy.
The ambassador also clarified that while there is a need to protect our territorial waters, it should not be the central focus of the Philippine-Chinese relations, adding that there are other drivers of relations that the Philippines and China could work closely with toward mutual gains.
Before his appointment as Philippine Ambassador to China, Sta. Romana was a known Martial Law activist who sought political asylum in China at the height of Marcos’ regime. During his stay, Sta. Romana became an Emmy award-winning Filipino-based journalist in China. He had witnessed many of China’s historic events and had since then been sought after expert on China affairs.
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