By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

STRONG PHILIPPINE-CHINA TIES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Wednesday (Jan. 4, 2023). During their meeting, Marcos stressed the importance of building a strong partnership between the Philippines and China for the mutual benefit of both countries as they face multiple challenges in the future. (Photo courtesy of OP)

MANILA – The Philippines and China must maintain their “strong” partnership for their own gain, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said during his bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday.

During the meeting held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Marcos told Li that strengthening the special ties between the Philippines and China would enable the two nations to sustain their economic growth and allow them to build good relations with other allied countries.

“It is very important that these partnerships continue to be strong, continue to be encouraged. And I think that will be the way forward to the mutual benefit of our countries,” Marcos said during his meeting with Li, as quoted by the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS).

“We have many, many, many areas that we continue to have cooperations in. And I think that they should be encouraged because they are in the precise areas that are necessary to develop so that we are strong financially as a country, we are strong in our society, and we are strong in our partnerships with our friends and allies around the world,” he added.

Presidential Communications Office officer-in-charge Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil said Marcos also stressed the importance of seizing the “grand opportunity” not only to revitalize the two countries’ relationship but also to build and foster even “greater modes of cooperation and partnership.”

This, as Marcos acknowledged that there are some “difficulties” that the Philippines and China have to face, Garafil said.

“The Philippines and China should build a strong partnership as they face multiple challenges in the future, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said during his meeting with Chinese Premier Li Kequiang on Wednesday,” she said.

“The opportunities that are available to China and the Philippines to further their relationship are great although there are some difficulties that they have to deal with, [President] Marcos noted,” Garafil added.

This is the second time Marcos met with Li. They first had a brief conversation on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2022.

During their meeting in Cambodia, Li said China and the Philippines’ improving relationship “far outweighs” their differences.

China has been the Philippines’ major trading partner, posting a total trade of USD29.1 billion from January to September 2022, with exports amounting to USD8.1 billion and imports at USD21 billion.

In 2022, the Philippines’ top exports to China included digital monolithic integrated circuits, semiconductor devices, nickel ore and concentrates, cathodes and sections of cathodes, refined copper and storage units.

The Philippines also considers China as a major contributor to its tourism industry after recording around 9,574 tourist arrivals from the Asian nation last year.

China is also an important player in the country’s inbound foreign direct investments and development assistance, particularly in infrastructure projects.

China also hosts a significant number of Filipinos. As of October 2022, there are around 15,000 Filipinos in mainland China and 398,489 Filipinos in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Marcos’ three-day state visit to China is expected to yield over 10 key agreements that will add to the over 100 existing deals between the two countries.

In an interview in Beijing, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the agreements that are expected to be signed will bolster the Marcos administration’s “Build Better More” infrastructure agenda.

“Part of this, we will be signing more than a dozen of agreements and loans so that we expect our ‘Build Better More’ to be accelerated. And also, other areas like agriculture will be a big part of this mission,” Diokno said.

“This very short trip will promise to be a very successful one,” he added.

Part of the “Build, Better, More” program is the creation of a Farm-to-Market Roads Network Master Plan, a detailed framework which contains strategic directions for sustainable projects. (PNA)