NANNING, China: Relations between China and the Philippines are “improving,” an official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said, as the two countries firm up strategies to boost cooperation.
Trade Undersecretary Nora Terrado cited efforts to hold bilateral discussions to tackle the sociopolitical and economic relationship between China and the Philippines.
“I think that relationships, political, trade, economic is improving. The reason why I say that is because bilateral discussion has been ongoing,” Terrado told reporters at the sidelines of the 14th China-Asean Expo and China-Asean Business and Investment Summit.
Terrado said “very high-level” discussions between China and the Philippines regarding long-term projects were ongoing.
“I have to say though that when we visited last time in China with President Duterte, there have been several letters of intent that have been signed… We are inviting several countries including China to partner with the Philippines in our infrastructure development,” Terrado said.
She noted that the country’s goal was to increase infrastructure spending from less than 3 percent of gross domestic product to 7 percent.
“That would be at least $168 billion of investment that will be spent in the Philippines from this year to 2022. So that’s a lot of infrastructure work and therefore several discussions are ongoing,” she added.
The focus on economic ties with China is part of the foreign policy direction of the Duterte administration, which is pursuing a “two-track” system of dialogue with Beijing, whose actions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) had prompted the previous Aquino administration to bring it to an international arbitration court.
Philippines-China relations were strained by Manila’s decision in 2013 to seek international arbitration on the dispute, which it won. China has refused to recognize the ruling as well as any bilateral negotiations premised on the Philippine victory.
The 14th China-Asean Expo and the 14th China-Asean Business and Investment Summit opened here in Nanning, the capital city of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on Tuesday with the participation of over 2,700 businesses.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, the “country of honor” in this year’s event, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Chairman Chen Wu co-chaired the opening ceremony at Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Center.
Themed “Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, promoting regional economic integration through tourism,” this year’s expo has a total area of 124,000 square meters and 6,600 booths.
First held in Nanning in 2004 on China’s initiative, the exhibition aims to foster friendship and cooperation between China and the Asean. The expo will run until September 17.