PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China next week could lead to an influx of Chinese investments as well as increased cooperation in investments and agriculture, Beijing’s envoy to Manila bared on Friday.
The visit will not be about the disputed South China Sea, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua told reporters in a briefing at the Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City.
“Agricultural investments will increase the output of imports of your tropical fruits such as banana and pineapple, which constitute a large potential in the China market. Still we want to import more,” Zhao said.
He noted that the Philippines accounts for 82 percent of Chinese banana consumption, and 70 percent of pineapple consumption.
“Dragon fruit particularly the red one is very much in demand,” he added. “The Chinese market is the largest market.”
President Duterte’s visit will also result in the sharing of machinery and technical know-how, especially in the fishing industry, he said.
China imports lapu-lapu, shrimps and bangus from the Philippines, the envoy said.
Moreover, the will also be cooperation in infrastructure projects such as airports and railways, which will come in soft loans or commercial loans from big businesses in China.
“Certainly we would like to invest more in the Philippines than the Philippines to invest in China. Soon we will be the number one investor in the Philippines,” Zhao said.
President Duterte will fly to China on October 18 after his state visit to Brunei on October 16.
Duterte will hold bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping on October 20. He is also expected to meet separately with National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Saying the sea dispute will not be the focus of the visit, Zhao said: “The meeting is for all good things. We are close neighbors, partners, friends and relatives.”
Dispute in agenda
But in Malacañang, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the sea dispute would be in the agenda, as well as cooperation in fighting illegal drugs.
“The bilateral relations between the Philippines and China are very expansive. So we expect that all areas of interest will be, expected to be discussed, including the South China Sea,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose told reporters.
Duterte will visit drug rehabilitation facilities and law enforcement agencies during his trip to China next week, he said.
“The purpose is, for the President to see for himself how China is also addressing this drug problem and also the fact that China is also assisting us as far as rehabilitation and law enforcement is concerned,” Jose explained.
Duterte and Xi are expected “to witness the signing of a number of memoranda of understanding and agreement on various fields of cooperation between the two countries.”
This will be the first meeting between the heads of states of the neighboring countries in five years, after ties frayed when the previous Aquino administration decided to file a case against China before a UN-backed arbitration tribunal.
In July, the international arbitration court ruled that China’s building of numerous artificial islands was illegal and its claims to most of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) had no legal basis. China refuses to recognize the ruling.
Duterte has since sought to warm relations with Beijing, while attacking the United States over Washington’s criticism of his war on illegal drugs.
The President is eyeing weapons from China and Russia to lessen dependence on the US. He has also sought an end to joint patrols at the West Philippine Sea and military exercises with the US, to appease China.
Duterte is also expected to meet with the Filipino community in China, and deliver the keynote address at the Trade and Investment Forum, to be attended by Filipino and Chinese investors.
Duterte’s delegation to China has yet to be finalized, but a group of businessmen who had signified their intention to join the trip would be “traveling on their own expense,” Jose said.
Before leaving for Beijing, Duterte will fly to Brunei on October 16 for a state visit.
In Brunei, the President is expected to hold bilateral talks with Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.
Brunei was supposed to be the first Southeast Asian country to be visited by Duterte this year. However, due to the bombing incident in Davao City last September 2, the President’s visit to Brunei was rescheduled.
Jose said the President was also scheduled to meet members of the 23,000-strong the Filipino community in Brunei on the first day of his visit to the oil-rich sultanate, at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex.