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Philippines-China economic and trade ties better than ever — Arroyo

/ 05:44 PM April 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The economic and trade cooperation between the Philippines and China has been better than ever, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Tuesday.

“Clearly, the economic and trade cooperation between our two countries is as good as it has ever been, better than it has ever been in fact. The main thing to focus on now, is on the implementation side,” Arroyo said during her keynote speech on the second day of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Manila Conference at the Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila hotel in Taguig City.

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The former president-turned-Pampanga congresswoman also said bilateral ties between the two countries have reached new heights in recent years, which “have been evident in the jump in China’s investment in the Philippines and in China’s becoming the Philippines’ number one partner in trade and industry.”

Arroyo, who is a member of the BFA Board, also said the Philippines has to “exert maximum effort to remove on-the-ground bottlenecks that impede implementation of projects that involve trade and investment groups from China.”

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“We hope that is the way your business plans will also end up. Welcome without restriction. We in the Philippines want to match your enthusiasm and this is what this Forum is all about. We want you to know the Philippine business climate… our business climate is very very welcoming for your business plans and I hope that will be the conclusion in this Boao Forum in Manila,” she continued.

The House leader again said China “has proven to be a partner in development” rather than a competitor.

“It is a market for Southeast Asia and its developing countries. It is a donor, it is a provider of capital and technology,” the lawmaker added.

READ: China’s rise ‘an opportunity, not a threat’ – Arroyo

Upon the initiative of Arroyo, the Philippines hosted the 2019 BOAO Forum for Asia Manila Conference, with the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. as its main partner, and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry as supporting partner.

With the theme “Concerted Action for Common Development in the New Era,” the Boao Forum in Manila will seek to enlighten businessmen from China with regard to restrictions, according to Arroyo.

Arroyo’s praises came on the heels of criticisms that infrastructure loan deals between the Philippines and China would be “detrimental” to the country.

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In 2018, the Philippines and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for oil and gas development cooperation, as well as 28 other agreements on trade, infrastructure, and education programs.

READ: PH, China sign MOU on oil and gas development, 28 other deals

These loan agreements include the controversial $62-million Chico River Pump Irrigation Loan Agreement and $248 million New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam loan deal.

Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, however, said the Kaliwa Dam deal has “onerous conditions” that were “detrimental to the Filipino people.”

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said the Chico River Pump Irrigation project could potentially allow China to take the gas-rich Reed Bank (Recto Bank) in the West Philippine Sea if the Philippines fails to pay the $62-million loan.

READ: China could seize gas in Reed Bank if PH can’t pay loans-Carpio | Panelo backtracks: Reed Bank a patrimonial asset of PH

China and the Philippines also have conflicting claims on the South China Sea (SCS). In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire SCS and decided that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (a part of the SCS). /je

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