By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday expressed optimism that his first state visit to China will give a boost to Manila and Beijing’s relationship.
In his pre-departure speech delivered at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, Marcos said he sought to upgrade the Philippines and China’s ties to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” by broadening the two countries’ cooperation on key areas such as agriculture, energy, infrastructure, science and technology, and trade and investment.
“As I leave for Beijing, I will be opening a new chapter in our comprehensive strategic cooperation with China. We will seek to foster a meaningful relation and broaden our cooperation in various areas such as agriculture, energy, infrastructure, science and technology, trade and investment, and people-to-people exchanges, among others,” he said.
“In undertaking this trip, I continue that legacy of strengthening the bonds of friendship established between the Filipino and Chinese peoples and fostering bilateral ties to a higher plane of cooperation,” Marcos added.
Marcos made the remark, as he acknowledged that the current status of the Philippines’ relationship with China is “deep, multi-faceted and mutually-beneficial.”
China is the Philippines’ top trade partner, largest source of imports and second largest export destination.
China is also the second largest source of foreign tourists in 2019 and a key player in the inbound foreign direct investments and development assistance.
‘Numerous prospects, abundant opportunities’
Marcos also hoped that his scheduled meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his three-day trip would bring “numerous prospects and abundant opportunities” that will benefit the two countries.
“I look forward to my meeting with President Xi as we work towards shifting the trajectory of our relations to a higher gear that would hopefully bring numerous prospects and abundant opportunities for the peace and development to the peoples of both our countries,” he said.
He noted that over 10 key bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during his state visit.
To date, there are more than 100 existing agreements between the Philippines and China.
“I hope to return home to the Philippines with a harvest of agreements and investments that will benefit our countrymen and further strengthen the foundation of our economic environment,” Marcos said.
As the country adapts to the “new normal,” Marcos said he would seize the opportunity to invite the Chinese nationals to visit the Philippines as “tourists, students, and investors.”
“Aside from sharing the wonders of our archipelago with our Chinese friends, strengthening people-to-people exchanges will allow us to bridge gaps in understanding between our two countries at every level,” he said.
“I shall push for the resumption of tourism and cultural cooperation between our two countries. In Beijing, we will seek to harness potentials of our vibrant trade and investment relations as we accelerate the post-pandemic growth of our economy,” Marcos added.
Marcos said during his trip to China, he will be joined by key private sector representatives who serve as his administration’s partners in boosting the Philippine economy.
Resolving political-security issues
Marcos said he would also discuss with Xi political-security issues to settle the issues concerning the two countries.
“In this regard, I also look forward to discussing political security issues of a bilateral and regional nature. The issues between our two countries are problems that do not belong between two friends such as the Philippines and China. We will seek to resolve those issues to the mutual benefit of our two countries,” he said.
Marcos also vowed to continue pursuing initiatives in priority areas to ensure food security, sufficient and stable energy and sustainable digital economy.
He also expressed appreciation for China’s assistance to the Philippines at the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“We are rising as a nation, recovering from the ravages of a global pandemic. In our unremitting fight against the onslaught of Covid-19, our cooperation with China helped strengthen trust between our two countries,” Marcos said.
“I recall our country’s profound appreciation and gratitude when China was there to extend its helping hand in the form of vaccines, personal protective equipment and technical assistance at the initial onslaught of the pandemic. You were the first to come to our aid,” he added.
This will be the President’s first bilateral visit to a non-Association of Southeast Asian Nations country. (PNA)