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PBBM China trip seen to yield 10-14 bilateral deals

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STRENGTHENING the country’s business and bilateral relations with China with the signing of several new agreements tops the agenda of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. during his two-day State Visit in Beijing next week.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), however, gave assurances the country’s territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) will also be tackled during the trip from January 3 to 5.

“The state visit is also expected to reaffirm the cordial and neighborly relations between the two countries, ensure continuity in many facets of the bilateral relationship and chart new areas of engagement,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Neal Imperial said in a press conference in Malacañang on Thursday.

“It is also expected to build on the growing trade and investment ties between the two economies as well as address security issues of mutual concern,” he added.

Over 20 percent of the country’s existing global trade is with China.

Imperial noted the President will be accompanied by a “sizable business delegation” during the trip for the completion of new business accords.

“There’s great interest from Chinese investors in the Philippine economy, especially in Philippine agriculture, renewable energy, and nickel processing.

China imports 70 percent of its nickel ore and concentrates requirements from the Philippines. So, there’s a lot of potential in those sectors,” Imperial said.

One of the expected business deals to be signed, he said, was for Durian importation.

“The Chinese market has a voracious appetite for Durian. So, we expect a lot of interest in our Durian exports, and also possible investments in the Durian producing regions in Mindanao,” Imperial said.

Bilateral agreements

DFA also announced that 10 to 14 bilateral agreements on trade and investments, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, development cooperation, people-to-people ties and maritime security cooperation are expected to be signed during the State Visit.

Among the pending accords is the renewal of the country’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative of China to augment the government infrastructure program.

“We are looking at possible grants from China amounting to 1.5 billion renminbi. And the framework for the three priority bridges crossing Pasig-Marikina River, and the Manggahan Floodway Bridges construction project,” Imperial said.

There is also a planned memorandum of understanding (MOU) on digital cooperation to promote exchange of best practices and capacity building in digital connectivity, data-emerging technologies.

Also set to be signed are agreements on tourism cooperation—expected to help draw more Chinese visitors to the country—and creating a direct communication between DFA and its counterpart ministry in China “to avoid miscalculation and miscommunication in the West Philippine Sea” issues.

WPS issue

DFA said Marcos will also continue to defend the country’s interest with the WPS during his meeting with Chinese officials.

“The President wants a peaceful and stable situation in the West Philippine Sea, and we’ll continue to uphold our country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights during his meetings with Chinese leaders,” Imperial said.

He pointed out the discussion may also cover the country’s possible joint oil and gas exploration with China, which was already discussed by Marcos with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bangkok at last month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

The DFA official made the remarks when asked if the President will discuss the recent reports of  the construction activities of China in unoccupied features in the Spratly when he meets with Chinese leaders.

“We do not wish to preempt or second-guess what the President will say to his counterparts, but the President will raise important issues affecting our bilateral relations, among them the issue on the West Philippine Sea. So, we can’t say how specific the discussions will be,” Imperial said.

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