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Directory Of Year 2020, Issue 405
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Current Location:English » 20200405 » HUANG XILIAN: STEADY GROWTH OF THE CHINA-PHILIPPINES COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGIC COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIP
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HUANG XILIAN: STEADY GROWTH OF THE CHINA-PHILIPPINES COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGIC COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIP

Year:2020 Issue:0405

Column: Top Talk

Author: By Yuan Yanan, Wang Fengjuan

Release Date:2020-04-10

Page: 10,11

Full Text:  

This year marks the 45th anniversary of China-Philippines diplomatic relations, so China Report ASEAN interviewed Huang Xilian, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, to get a better idea of the opportunities and cooperation potential the two countries share.

China Report ASEAN: Development of relations between China and the Philippines has reached a new stage. What is your opinion on current China-Philippines relations?

Huang Xilian: President Xi Jinping and President Duterte have placed considerable effort on improving bilateral relations in recent years so the two countries have maintained peace and friendship, expanded economic and trade cooperation and increased people-to-people exchanges. These efforts have propelled the steady development of China-Philippines relations.

The two countries have enhanced cooperation on political security. President Xi Jinping and President Duterte have met eight times since 2016, and high-level interactions between the two countries have been very frequent, giving powerful impetus to bilateral relations. China and the Philippines have properly solved disputes and maintained close cooperation in various fields including anti-terrorism, humanitarian relief, disaster mitigation and peacekeeping. Meetings of the China-Philippines bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea have also proceeded smoothly.

China and the Philippines enjoy fruitful economic and trade cooperation. China has become the Philippines’ largest trading partner, largest source of imports, largest source of foreign investment and third largest export market. In 2019, bilateral trade volume exceeded US$60 billion, an increase of 9.5 percent year-on-year. The same year, Chinese companies signed new contracts for projects in the Philippines valued at US$6.24 billion and achieved a total turnover of US$2.76 billion.

The people-to-people bonds have become closer. China is now the second largest source of tourists for the Philippines. Last year, the total number of Chinese tourist arrivals to the Philippines reached 1.74 million, a year-on-year increase of 38 percent. China aided construction of 14 schools in Mindanao which now provide more than 50 classrooms for over 2,000 local students. More than 30 pairs of sister provinces and cities have been established between China and the Philippines, and the two sides are arranging dispatch of English teachers from the Philippines to China and establishment of cultural centers on each other’s side.

The momentum for regional cooperation has stayed strong. Since taking over the role as a country coordinator for China-ASEAN relations in August 2018, the Philippines has been actively promoting China-ASEAN cooperation and making it a model for international cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. China and ASEAN countries including the Philippines have actively stepped up consultations on the COC (Code of Conduct) to ensure the South China Sea has waters of peace, friendship and cooperation.

During his visit to the Philippines in late 2018, President Xi Jinping upgraded China-Philippines relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and proposed the direction and new requirements for future bilateral relations. Since I became Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines last December, my top priorities have been to implement consensus reached by heads of the two countries and ensure steady and enduring growth of the China-Philippines comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

China Report ASEAN: What are some potential fields of cooperation shared by the BRI and the Philippine government’s “Build, Build, Build” development program?

Huang Xilian: Cooperation on infrastructure is the key link between the BRI and the “Build, Build, Build” program. The Global Competitiveness Report 2019 published by the World Economic Forum ranked the Philippines 96th on infrastructure citing its need to increase spending. At the same time, after over four decades of rapid development since its reform and opening up, China has created the world’s biggest construction market and fostered a group of globally competitive construction companies.

Cooperation on infrastructure between China and the Philippines has also won policy support. In November 2018, heads of both countries witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines on Cooperation within the Framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, a move showing both sides’ determination to enhance cooperation on infrastructure. President Duterte attended both the first and second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing to stress his support for further cooperation in such areas.

China Report ASEAN: Which sectors look most promising for economic and trade cooperation?

Huang Xilian: Under the strategic direction of heads of China and the Philippines, tensions have eased, and bilateral relations have improved markedly, which highly boosted economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. The current bilateral trade volume between China and the Philippines has ballooned to more than 800 times what it was at the beginning of diplomatic relations.

China has been the biggest export market for Philippine bananas since 2018. In 2019, coconuts from the Philippines were finally exported to China, and the two countries reached export agreements to bring Philippine avocados to China. According to the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines, Philippine companies reported orders valued at around US$300 million at the second China International Import Expo (CIIE).

China and the Philippines also have made progress on investment cooperation. In July 2019, DITO, a joint venture with China Telecom, obtained its third license for operating telecommunications in the Philippines, and relevant construction has progressed steadily. The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) of the Philippines and China Gezhouba Group Company Limited have entered negotiations on a series of cooperation projects in an industrial park in New Clark City. Panhua Group, a Chinese steel sheet company, has demonstrated interest in building factories in the Philippines to produce an array of steel products. Such projects could bring billions of dollars of investment and many good jobs to local people.

The overall trend of China’s contracted projects in the Philippines has been generally positive, and inter-governmental and commercial projects are all progressing well. I predict more China-Philippines projects in the future that will play a significant role in facilitating economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchange.

China Report ASEAN: What progress have China and the Philippines made on people-to-people exchange? What kind of cooperation best enhances mutual understanding and trust between the two peoples?

Huang Xilian: In recent years, people-to-people exchange has been gaining momentum thanks to support from both governments and communities. The wide range of fields and diverse types of exchange between the two countries have only continued expanding. For example, activities with various cultural themes highlighting Philippine and Chinese traditional cultures, Chinese movies and the Spring Festival have been organized to enhance cultural understanding. Last year, Chinese tourist visits to the Philippines exceeded 1.74 million, a year-on-year increase of 38.58 percent, trailing only to South Korea. More than 1,000 Chinese students are studying in the Philippines, seeking degrees in management, medical care, education and management at famous Philippine universities. The Philippines now has five Confucius Institutes to provide Chinese language lessons for local people.

Next, the two countries will actively build new platforms for people-to-people exchange based on traditional friendship. First, we will focus on increasing activities targeting a wider range of people and attracting greater local interest to consolidate foundation for cultural exchange. Second, we are working actively to adapt to the development needs in the new era by strengthening cooperation in cultural industries and vigorously promote exchange and cooperation in fields such as think tanks, youth, media and sports. We will continue our efforts to pave a solid foundation for bilateral friendship to guarantee the long-term and stable progress of bilateral relations.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.

In 2019, bilateral trade volume exceeded US$60 billion, an increase of 9.5 percent year-on-year.

The same year, Chinese companies signed new contracts for projects in the Philippines valued at US$6.24 billion and achieved a total turnover of US$2.76 billion.

The current bilateral trade volume between China and the Philippines has ballooned to more than 800 times what it was at the beginning of diplomatic relations.

Last year, the total number of Chinese tourist arrivals to the Philippines reached 1.74 million, a year-on-year increase of 38.58 percent.

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