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Taipans join President Aquino’s trip to China

Up to $7B expected deals from visit

RED CARPET TO CHINA President Aquino troops the line during the send-off ceremony at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Tuesday night before boarding a Philippine Airlines special Flight PR001 for a five-day state visit to the People’s Republic of China. BEN HUR ARCAYAN/MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU

BEIJING—Underlining the trade and investment slant of his state visit to China, President Benigno Aquino III arrived here with a 270-strong business delegation, including the Philippines’ top industry leaders.

It is the biggest business contingent of Mr. Aquino’s foreign trips.

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John Gokongwei, Jr., founder and chair emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, Lucio Tan, founder and chair of the group of companies that bears his name, George Ty, chair of Metrobank, and Tony Tan Caktiong, chair of Jollibee Foods Corp. are among the most notable names with the delegation.

Others include Manuel V. Pangilinan, chair of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Ramon Ang, president and CEO of San Miguel Corp. and Washington Sycip, founding chair of SGV and Co.

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Many of the business leaders were with the President on the Philippine Airlines special flight PR001 that arrived here late Tuesday night from Manila.

“The primary objective of the President’s visit is to further strengthen bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, especially in the aspect of trade and commerce,” Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said on the day of Mr. Aquino’s departure.

Ochoa said the President would be meeting with Chinese businessmen and economic policy-makers. “(G)iven the potential of both our economies, we hope to close investment deals that will be beneficial for all those involved,” he added.

If government expectations from the trip are met, the P25 million allotted for the trip will be a well-spent amount.

The Philippines and China are expected to agree on a five-year economic development plan seeking to boost two-way trade six-fold, to about $60 billion.

The budget covers expenses for the special commercial flight, hotel accommodations, food, transportation, telecommunications, equipment requirements and items, during the three-leg state visit, according to Ochoa.

Assistant Foreign Secretary Cristina Ortega said at an earlier news briefing in Malacañang that the trip alone was expected to generate at least $1.5 billion in initial investments. Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio said Tuesday night the visit could generate investments worth between $2 billion and $7 billion.

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“We will work hard. I think it can be done,” Ortega said of the five-year development agreement’s expected yield for the country’s economy.

Most of it will be Chinese investments in manufacturing, railways, shipyards, mining and tourism as the Philippine economy continues to grow and the Aquino administration seeks funds to increase spending on social services to reduce poverty.

Because Mr. Aquino’s choice for Philippine ambassador to China, Domingo Lee, has not yet been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, it will be the charge d’affaires at the Philippine Embassy, Alex Chua, who will represent the country here.

Back in business

Chua said the meetings with Chinese economic policy-makers and business leaders would be an opportunity for Mr. Aquino and his economic team “to convey the message about our economy and our policies, and that we are back in business.”

China is lagging behind the United States and Japan as the Philippines’ third-largest trade partner.

Beijing’s attempts in the last decade to establish a more powerful economic and political presence in the Philippines floundered as Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, staggered in a series of corruption scandals over allegedly overpriced projects involving Chinese companies.

ZTE, railway deals

Under public pressure, Arroyo in 2007 canceled a flagship $330-million Philippine government deal with China’s ZTE Corp. to set up a nationwide broadband network. Her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, and former elections chief Benjamin Abalos have denied accusations of receiving kickbacks. ZTE has also denied bribing any officials.

The Aquino administration is reviewing a Chinese-sponsored railway project that was initially worth $503 million, but the cost reportedly ballooned to some $2 billion.

State Grid Corp.

The President is scheduled to start his day on Wednesday with a meeting with officials of State Grid Corp. of China and National Grid Corp of the Philippines.

Afterward, he will meet with executives of China Trend and China Investment Corp. and Chinese petroleum officials. He will also meet with Chinese contractors before meeting Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

Together, Mr. Aquino and Wang will attend the Philippines-China Economic and Trade Forum.

“President Aquino and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, a very important leader in China, will be addressing the Philippines-China trade forum. Their messages to the 500 business leaders will highlight the commitment of both countries to stronger, more vigorous trade and economic cooperation, and their support for each other’s business sectors as they explore solid partnerships,” Chua said.

Hu Jintao

Following the meetings with business leaders, Mr. Aquino will formally be welcomed by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People.

A bilateral meeting will follow and a state banquet in Mr. Aquino’s honor to be hosted by Hu.

On Thursday morning, he is scheduled to visit the Great Wall.

Wen Jiabao

More meetings with Chinese businessmen are scheduled before Mr. Aquino meets Wu Bangguo, chair of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Mr. Aquino is also scheduled to make stops in Shanghai and Xiamen.

In Shanghai, Mr. Aquino will meet with local officials and major business groups and sign trade agreements. He will also meet with the Filipino community there.

Tree planted by Cory

In Xiamen, he will visit Hongjian Village in Fujian province to view the araucaria tree planted in 1988 by his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

“The President will be planting a tree in the ancestral village where the Cojuangcos trace their roots,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

Mr. Aquino will interact with members of the Xu (Co) clan, which his mother traced more than two decades ago as her ancestral roots.

Among the Cabinet members in the presidential delegation were Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Presidential Adviser on International Relations Domingo Lee. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and AP

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TAGS: Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, bilateral ties, George Ty, JG Summit Holdings, John Gokongwei, Jollibee Foods Corp., Jr., Lucio Tan, Manuel V. Pangilinan, Metrobank, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Ramon Ang, San Miguel Corp., SGV and Co., Tony Tan Caktiong, Washington Sycip, ZTE Broadband
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