Forum focuses on China-Philippines economic ties

Prime Sarmiento

Forum focuses on China-Philippines economic ties

Economic cooperation is key to strengthening relations between China and the Philippines, experts and senior officials said at the China-Philippines Business Forum held in Manila.

Participants in the forum on Monday stressed that the two countries' centuries-long trade ties, China's rising investments in the Philippines and the 29 cooperation agreements signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's Nov 20-21 state visit to the Philippine capital had deepened bilateral relations.

The one-day forum, which focused on the theme "Taking the China-Philippines Relations to New Heights", was organized by China Daily and sponsored by Bank of China. Representatives from the Philippine and Chinese government, business, academic and media sectors attended the event at the Grand Hyatt Manila.

"Economic cooperation is a win-win choice for us and should be the bedrock of our relations," said Tan Qingsheng, charge d'affaires at the Chinese embassy in the Philippines.

Tan said in his keynote address that China can extend both financial and technical support to help the Philippines promote economic growth and social development. He cited the China-funded projects that fall under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's flagship infrastructure development program.

Philippine Finance Undersecretary Mark Dennis Y.C. Joven said Philippines-China relations have been "experiencing a golden age" in recent years.

He said China is now the Philippines' biggest trading partner and one of the biggest sources of investment and tourism. He noted that in the first quarter of 2018, FDI from China surged by over 500 percent compared with the previous year.

Zhou Li, editorial board member of the China Daily Group and Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of China Daily Asia Pacific, said there's a need to "reaffirm the economic commitments" between China and the Philippines, especially at a time that the "US-China trade war looms large".

China-Philippines ties also go beyond trade ties. As Deng Jun, country head for Bank of China's branch in Manila, noted in his speech, the two countries can also deepen their financial cooperation.

He said the bank has committed at least $3 billion to finance Philippine infrastructure and trade. It also served as an underwriter for Philippine bonds, helping the Duterte administration raise funds for its infrastructure program.

Deng said three of the 29 agreements signed during Xi's state visit will enhance financial cooperation between the two countries.

These three documents are the Memorandum of Understanding on Renminbi Clearing Arrangement between the central banks of two countries, the MOU on Panda Bonds Issuance between the Philippine Department of Finance and Bank of China, and the Letter of No Objection to the Organization of the Renminbi-Philippine Peso Foreign Exchange Trading Market granted by the central bank of the Philippines to the Philippine RMB Trading Community.