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Phl, China firm up agri, trade cooperation

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and China, particularly Jilin province, are strengthening bilateral cooperation and trade, particularly in agriculture and fisheries, that will hopefully increase bilateral trade to $60 billion in the next five years.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala met last week with China’s former Minister of Agriculture Sun Zhengcai to discuss possible agricultural and fishery technical cooperation and trade opportunities that will contribute to increasing trade between the two countries to $60 billion in the next five years.

Sun is currently the Party Secretary of Jilin, a major agro-forest-mineral province in northeast China with a gross domestic product of more than $120 billion.

He heads a 15-man Chinese delegation to explore investment and trade opportunities in the Philippines.

The Jilin delegation will also call on Vice President Jejomar Binay and meet with officials of the SM Group of companies, business taipans Lucio Tan and Carlos Chan, officials of the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and participate in the Philippine-Jilin Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum.

Agriculture is one of the priority areas that President Aquino discussed with Chinese President Hu Jintao during President Aquino’s China State Visit last month.

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Sun acknowledged that China and the Philippines have huge potential for cooperation in the agricultural and fishery sector.

He expressed particular interest in plantations, fisheries, and tropical plants.

Sun said that Jilin Province, in particular, could   further extend technical assistance and investments in the area of agri-fishery and countryside infrastructure such as irrigation and post-harvest facilities.

Situated in northeast China near the Russian and North Korean border, Jilin is a major agro-forest-mineral province.

Its main products are rice, corn, sorghum, sheep, deer, timber, ginseng, ethanol, biochemicals, and industrial products like cars, train carriages and steel alloys.

Alcala welcomes Jilin-based companies to invest in the country.

 “With Jilin’s strength in agriculture, I am certain that both sides can find mutually beneficial cooperation, especially in technical exchanges in rice and corn production,” Alcala said.

He cited the introduction of Chinese hybrid rice varieties in the Philippines, including agriculture technologies and equipment being used to boost agricultural productivity, particularly through the Philippines-China Center for Agricultural Technology (Philscat) in Munoz City, Nueva Ecija.

Alcala, in turn, promoted Philippine coco coir products as flood control and soil erosion agents.

Alcala updated former Minister Sun on a 2007 Memorandum of Understanding forged among several Philippine government agencies (DA included) with Jilin province, China Development Bank, and Jilin Fuhua Agricultural Science and Technology Development Co. Ltd., involving the lease of one million hectares for grains and bio-fuel crops.

The agreement was suspended when a cause-oriented group questioned its legality before the Supreme Court.

Alcala assured Sun that, “I hope that the relevant government agencies will resolve the matter soon. The current administration is committed at making a transparent, predictable, reliable and profitable business destination for all our partners.”

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