By Azer Parrocha

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. shakes hands with China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu in a meeting on Wednesday (Jan. 4, 2023), the second day of the Chief Executive’s three-day state visit to Beijing. (Screengrab from RTVM) 

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu met on Wednesday to discuss the strengthening ties between the Philippines and China.

Li, chairperson of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, was the first Chinese official who Marcos met on the second day of his state visit there.

The National People’s Congress is equivalent to the Philippine legislature.

“President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. commences his official activities on the second day of his State Visit to the People’s Republic of China by meeting with Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, on 4 January 2023,” state-run Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) said on its official Facebook account.

Marcos, in his welcome statement, highlighted the close ties and relations between the two countries that started way before diplomatic relations were established 47 years ago.

He also assured continuity in many facets of Philippine-China ties while charting new areas of engagement in the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“…The partnerships in the next few years will be partnerships that will stabilize and strengthen all our economies so that we are able to face challenges and the different shocks that now we feel and will continue to feel in the next few years,” he said in his statement.

Marcos likewise said he believed that his state visit to China will open opportunities to elevate relations to a strategic partnership and boost cooperation in various areas such as infrastructure, tourism, trade and people-to-people ties.

“So our visit here, as you have noted, Your Excellency, is extremely important for both our countries. And certainly, we considered in the Philippines of primary importance to increase the relationship and strengthen the relationship between China and the Philippines,” he added.

In a press release from the Office of the Press Secretary, Marcos also expressed hope that China will continue to do business in the Philippines, particularly in government-to-government cooperation.

He noted that although there were some disagreements, the two countries must not allow them to be “the sum” of their relationship.

He said the relationship must extend to commerce, culture, education, trade, and investment, as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Marcos also expressed his gratitude to Li for the hospitality that China has shown to him and the members of his delegation.

Aside from Li, Marcos will also be meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi will host a dinner banquet for Marcos, First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, and Cabinet officials after their meeting.

Marcos, in his pre-departure speech on Tuesday, said he hoped that his scheduled meeting with Xi would bring “numerous prospects and abundant opportunities” that will benefit the two countries.

He noted that over 10 key bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during his state visit. To date, there are more than 100 existing agreements between the Philippines and China.

Marcos’ delegation consists of more or less 200 people, including around 60 to 80 representatives from the business sector.

China is the Philippines’ largest trading partner, the largest source of imports, and the second-largest export destination.

The Asian Giant is also the second largest source of foreign tourists in 2019 and a key player in inbound foreign direct investments and development assistance. (PNA)