BEIJING: Two weeks of lectures and sightseeing were exhausting and I have yet to unpack and take a little rest before attending to an accumulated workload. So may I just share in this space an abridged version of the remarks that I delivered during a workshop last Thursday with a bureau of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee:
I feel truly privileged to be a part of this program. It’s actually the second time that I am joining this. I was here in December 2014 for the first Asian Media Forum and the 10+3 Media Cooperation Workshop that took us to Kunming and Guangdong. That forum mainly tackled reviving the ancient Maritime Silk Road. Now we’re talking about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
I’d say that in the last four years, there has been remarkable progress already from what was a mere concept as articulated by President Xi Jinping in 2013, to consultations on the framework in 2014. And now, on our trips to Jinchang City and Wuwei City and Dunhuang in Gansu province where we had the 4th Media Cooperation Forum, I was amazed at how these local communities, which are largely desert areas, are being developed, how their unique potentials and prospects are being explored to realize the dream of the BRI for prosperity and global economic development.
And then we had a very informative and educational briefing here with Deputy Director General Shi Guohui of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee last week. When he shared with us the selection and election process for leaders in government here, what was playing in my mind was a wish, and perhaps a fervent prayer, that we would have that kind of process for political leadership in the Philippines.
In my country, people get elected based largely on popularity. Performance often takes a back seat. Candidates just have to have money for dole-outs, have the confidence to dance even if both their feet are left, sing popular songs even if out of tune, and deliver lively speeches even if they don’t make sense at all or if what they are saying is the complete opposite of what they have done in their previous positions.
My brothers and sisters, I am not sharing this to disparage my country before you. I love my country because it’s the only one I’ve got. But I can’t just close my eyes and keep quiet over what’s happening there. I have no intention to speak ill of my beloved Philippines. My point, and the only point I have in mind, in sharing this with you is just to illustrate that we have a lot to learn from China in this aspect.
Back home we have a communist party but the members have splintered into groups which, I believe, is not over ideology but over control and power. I don’t want to pretend to know their inner workings because I don’t, so I’d rather not talk any more about that. What I know is that the government has stopped peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) because the rebels violated a ceasefire agreement and ambushed soldiers and policemen. Perhaps the CPC Central Committee can help bring them back to the negotiating table so this more-than-four-decades-old insurgency problem can be resolved.
In the area of trade, I believe the Philippines and China have been working together to narrow the trade imbalance which has been largely in favor of China.
Our two countries share a long history. It has been touted that the Chinese community we have in the Philippines is the oldest and the largest in the world. Its history dates back to the 1500s, if I remember correctly.
Two years ago, my newspaper organized a business forum in coordination with the Chinese Embassy in Manila to enhance economic and trade exchange between the two countries, setting aside the political tensions arising from the territorial dispute over some islets and rock formations in what you call the South China Sea, and we now call the West Philippine Sea.
I’ll stop there because it will be a long discussion that may only provoke a heated debate and we don’t have time for that now.
I am a guest here and I feel so special and privileged, even if my country is not included in either the Maritime Silk Road or the Belt and Road Initiative. That was why I initially felt out of place until the lecturers assured us that even countries outside the routes will reap the benefits of this rapidly growing effort for global economic progress.
But I would not want to end this time without thanking my hosts…On behalf of the new family that I have found through this program, we are truly and genuinely grateful for this opportunity to witness the rapid transformation of China and share with our respective audience what we have learned and seen here. I hope that we can all work together, cooperate in chasing the dream of the Belt and Road Initiative, and make it a reality.