China would power wings of PHL economy — China envoy PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 August 2011 14:28

By GLORIA JANE BAYLON

China’s ambassador to Manila Liu Jianchao this weekend flew home to Beijing to help roll out the red carpet for Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, who is making his first-ever State Visit to a major powerful ally from August 30 to Sept. 2.

Before flying out, Liu described the forthcoming visit as “a very significant trip” in that, among others, China is Aquino’s first State Visit outside of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), occurring at a time of “a wonderful relationship.”

It is a practice for Heads of State or Government of Asean member-states to make their first state visit to each other, and Aquino had visited most of them.
Liu added that he himself is excited as he will be greeting Aquino at the tarmac of Beijing Capital International Airport, a serendipitous assignment on his third year of assignment in Manila.

”So, we would like to extend our warmest welcome to the President who is going to be received by the Chinese people and Chinese government with open arms and who are looking forward to his discussions on the general and overall relationship between our countries,” said Liu at a pre-departure briefing for the press.

He said China’s top business leaders are also looking forward to discussions on cooperation in the political and cultural fields, diplomacy, economics, noting that it is rare in a state visit to China that three public business forum are scheduled, on top of at least 15 one-on-ones between the visiting Head of State and China’s industry leaders in information technology, mining, infrastructure, tourism, and auto.

”This is a perfect time for our business leaders to meet and seek ways and channels for future cooperation…to better understand each other so that our potential economic ties could really be tapped,” Liu added.

Observing the Philippine economy as taking off, Liu said “China is ready and willing to add power to the wings of that economy,” specifying that some P1.8 billion in Chinese loan has been made available and simply waiting for other specific uses desired by Manila and dependent on the conclusions reached during the visit. “Both the Chinese and the Philippine governments are very positive in putting this money into right projects,” he noted.

He expressed hope that Chinese businessmen are ready to work on projects of the Aquino administration’s Private-Public Partnership (PPP) scheme and with more information about it, China could help develop the construction infrastructure of the Philippines, particularly since “China has developed very sophisticated knowledge, operation and management of infrastructure.”

“I do hope economic policies will be more liberalized so that cooperation with foreign companies will become easier,” Liu noted at one point, deflecting references to constitutional changes on economic terms.

An action plan on further deepening the bilateral trade relations, taking into account the framework agreement signed in 2006, might result from Aquino’s visit, according to Liu. But the embassy’s commercial attaché declined to make any estimate of any trade package, stressing that any such announcement must come from the Heads of State or trade ministers.

According to Liu, the four-day visit “will be very rich in content” — heavy on trade and investment talks that on the Philippine side is composed of the likes of the Ayala Group and PLDT and other leading companies.

But the economic agenda will be balanced with cultural activities, including a tour of the capital city of Beijing, “which is the center of our traditional Chinese culture.” Aquino will be shown the fabled artist-cum-financial city of Shanghai and will leave China via the port city of Xiamen in Fujian province in the southeastern coast.

On his calendar is a visit to the Cojuangco family’s ancestral roots in the ancient village of Hongjian, beyond Xiamen, which is more popular with Chinese migrants to the Philippines as Amoy. “So there, I am sure, he is going to have a very, very good time meeting with the villagers and people,” Liu impressed.

Liu intimated that the bilateral emphasis on expanded tourist visits and tourism           infrastructure would be part of a Joint Statement that will come out of the visit, even as he insisted that a HK-Manila consensus on how the so-called Hong Kong incident, in which a handful of Hong Kong tourists died in Manila last year, would lead to a closure and followed by a resumption of normal exchanges.

Asked by newsmen what the consensus said about the demand by the victims’ families for an official governmental apology, Liu said in a pained response that “a consensus is consensus,“ and that China and the Philippine government will continue acting in accordance with that “consensus”.

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China and with some autonomy, continues to ban its resident from travelling to the Philippines, and Liu said the Central Government in Beijing “understands the reason” but that mainland China itself does “not see it necessary” to upgrade its own advice except for areas in the Philippines that “are widely viewed as risky and dangerous.” He hoped, however, that the dialogue between Hong Kong and Manila “will continue“ so that eventually the travel alerts will be lifted.

While mentioning that the Spratlys would be touched upon in the talks, commenting that “it potentially can affect relations if we don’t find ways of moving about this field,” he reminded that both Manila and Beijing have agreed early on to consider their opposing claims of sovereignty to the disputed West Philippine Sea and Nansha respectively as an issue that should not affect their overall friendly relationship.

Peaceful development is the only direction that China is taking as far as the Spratlys are concerned, Liu said, adamant in his assertion that unlike the Western powers, the South China Sea is never seen as the “next flash point” by China. “Because we do believe that all claimants including this (Aquino) administration have their aspiration and the wisdom to take a peaceful and stable (path to development).”

Liu said that China remains interested in joint exploration with Manila even in areas that Beijing itself said it has historical sovereignty, as he explained the background of how and why the late Chinese statesman Deng Xiaoping proposed the idea to then Philippine Foreign minister Salvador Laurel.
A tripartite agreement for a joint seismic research to include Vietnam, another claimant, has expired and was not renegotiated.

”We do hope that this (a joint exploration scheme) will materialize as soon as possible because we do believe that this is the best way for the claimant parties to have opportunities of cooperation rather than engaging in any kind of conflict,” Liu expressed. “I do hope we will all be realistic so that we can really find something we can agree upon so that we can have joint exploration and development.”

On the cultural front, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma has confirmed that a memorandum of understanding on the exchange of projects between China Central Television (CCTV) and the Manila broadcasting network, PTV-4, would be signed during the visit.

CCTV has recently opened a bureau in the Philippines and was among the Chinese media organizations which interviewed Aquino at Malacanang regarding his China visit.

Some bilateral concerns may not be raised during the State visit, such as the active negotiations for an agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners — which could see the release from Chinese prisons of scores of Filipino drug mules and them completing their prison terms in the Philippines and vice versa — but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was in China last week to work out the details.

A stumbling block in a possible agreement is that China imposes the death sentence while the Philippines only has life terms.