THOSE of us who are tired of government officials and their politics–and their conflicts—got healthy doses of invigorating facts and ideas from business-minded men at last Wednesday’s Manila Times Forum on Philippine China relations at Dusit Thani attended by some 200 registered delegates.
“Business As Usual in Unusual Times—Fostering prosperous business relations between Philippine and Chinese entrepreneurs” and “Crafting smart strategies for profitable cross-border business operations” were the title and theme of the forum. It attracted captains of business and industry, as well as commercial, finance and management executives of Philippine companies planning to invest, or at least set up a presence, in China.
The thoughts that came to us from two government people—one from the Philippines and another from China—were among the most rational, amicable, untainted by animosity toward anybody that we’ve heard. They spoke without fear of betraying their government’s policy to be harsh toward the other’s country.
These officials were Philippine Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio Balisacan and China’s Mr. Wang Yang, the First Secretary for Economic Affairs and Chief of the Commercial Section at the Chinese Embassy here.
Both were sanguine about their two countries’ territorial dispute coming to an end—soon. They were optimistic too that commercial, investment and people-to-people relations will continue to grow and help make the current conflict die down.
Here are some quotes from First Secretary Wang. He spoke these words in his speech at the forum, in his answers at the Q&A sessions, and in interviews with reporters at the sidelines of the forum:
“China and the Philippines are not only neighbors. Since the establishment of diplomatic relationship between our two nations, we’ve had great progress in our bilateral friendship and economic development.”
“I believe our two countries could overcome [the current political]difficulties and seize opportunities through trade.”
He reminded everyone of the fact that Philippines is one of the top trade partners of Hong Kong and mainland China. Two-way trade amounted to $38 billion in the January to August of 2014—an increase of 4.7 percent over last year’s figure.
The Philippines is China’s fourth biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) among the Southeast Asian countries.
In an interview of Mr. Wang at the sidelines of the Times Forum, Othel V, Campos of Manila Standard Today reported that the China Embassy official had said that “while China is investing in a lot of other interests like agriculture and manufacturing, its interest in the Philippines is mostly in power generation” and that Chinese companies are very interested “in investing heavily in power, especially in hyrdroelectric power plants… on top of other business opportunities. The news of power outage in the summer of 2015 stirs Chinese businessmen to come to the Philippines and invest.” Mr. Wang added that “China has advanced technology in alternative power production and supply and may help the Philippines deal with its impending power problems.”
Attractive Philippine growth trajectory
Secretary Balisacan in his formal speech reviewed the impressive Philippine economic growth trajectory for the past decade, and specially now that our country is among the region’s top growth stars, Chinese businessmen are not going to let opportunities for profit and productivity in business pass them by.
“I believe there is a mutual desire for stronger economic ties as well as for peace and stability,” he said. “To complement our efforts in stronger economic ties, it is imperative to have people-to-people business relations and joint endeavors in education, applied science and technology and cultural exchanges,” Secretary Balisacan said.
Despite the current territorial dispute between China and the Philippines, trade relations between the two countries have continued growing. He showed that bilateral trade has risen by 19 percent to $10 billion in the first seven months of 2014. He also noted that China is the Philippines’ second largest trading partner and the top source of imported goods and that has not changed even with the sea and sovereignty row.
“Despite all these noises, it seems to be business as usual… Business has risen. Things are not slowing down in so far as economic relations with China is concerned,” the NEDA Director-General said. “These facts show that economic opportunities and growth potentials are bright both for our country and for China, so I encourage you to keep the ties of our countries as we are now on a higher growth trajectory.”
In his keynote address, former President Fidel V. Ramos also urged the delegates to the Manila Times Forum to keep warm people-to-people and business-to-business ties with the Chinese. He stressed his point by reminding the delegates that “God does not want violence and enmity but wants mankind to live in friendship and solidarity, like a family.”