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Opening a new chapter of China-Philippines relations

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

It is my great pleasure to pay an official visit to the Philippines and attend the East Asia leaders’ meetings at the invitation of President Duterte. This will be my first visit to your hospitable land as the Chinese Premier, yet I have long been drawn to your rich historical and cultural heritage, vibrant society and your cheerful and hard-working people.

I wish to extend my warm greetings and best regards to the Philippine people and I hope my upcoming visit will help enhance the friendship between our peoples, deepen bilateral cooperation and open new prospects for China-Philippines relations.

Facing each other across the sea, our peoples share a close bond and a long history of friendly association. Our earliest exchanges could be traced to the period of China’s Tang and Song dynasties. In those times, Chinese merchants bound for the Philippines would load their ships with stones as ballasts, which would be left behind as the fully-loaded ships sailed back to China. These stones, known as “Piedra China” were later used by the local people to build houses and pave roads, becoming a precious historical mark of our friendly interactions. In the 15th century, Admiral Zheng He’s seven voyages to the Western Seas took him to the Manila Bay, Visayas and Sulu many times, sowing the seeds of friendship and cooperation among our peoples. The recent exhibition “Fujian Ware Found in the Philippines: Song-Yuan Period” is a good example of the millennium-old friendship and exchange between us.

Many Filipinos trace their ancestry to China’s Fujian province. The ancestors of Jose Rizal, your founding father and national hero, were from Jinjiang City of Fujian. Ye Fei, a well-known Chinese general in China’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression, was born in the province to a Filipino mother. Fookien, the dialect of Fujian, together with its unique cuisine such as pancit, siopao, bihon and misua, has long been part of the Philippine culture, and the Spring Festival is a major holiday celebrated across the country. The Mazu culture, brought to the Philippines by generations of Chinese, has taken root here and enriched a multi-cultural Philippines. These historical episodes have formed a shared legacy and deep bonds between our peoples.

Touching stories about Chinese and Philippine people coming to each other’s help abound in modern times. When a devastating earthquake hit Sichuan Province in 2008, the Philippine government and people immediately extended a helping hand. Then president Gloria Arroyo traveled to Sichuan to visit those affected. In 2009, the Philippine company Oishi invited 100 high school students from quake-affected areas to spend a week in the Philippines, a testament to your deep friendship toward the Chinese people. In the same spirit, when typhoons Haiyan and Haima and earthquake in Surigao struck this country, China provided the Philippines with timely, selfless assistance.

Throughout the past one thousand years, equality and mutual help in times of need has been the dominant theme for China-Philippines relations.

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Having said that, our two countries do have different views on certain issues and our relations encountered a setback due to the South China Sea issue. As the saying goes, “The wise expand common ground while the unwise aggravate differences.” Since taking office, President Duterte made the right decision to improve and develop relations with China. The two sides returned to the track of appropriately handling the South China Sea issue through dialogue and consultation, thus removing the stumbling block that has held back our bilateral relations for several years. The complete turnaround in our relations came during President Duterte’s successful visit to China in October last year, when leaders of our two countries held historic meetings. Important consensus was further reached between President Xi Jinping and President Duterte on solidifying and deepening bilateral relations last May when President Duterte visited China for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Such common understanding at the top level has charted the course and instilled a strong impetus into our bilateral relations.

This is a point I want to underscore: in the context of our thousand-year friendly interactions, our differences are but brief interludes that will neither weaken our commitment to good neighborliness and friendship nor shake the solid foundation of our relations as good neighbors, good friends and good brothers.

The China-Philippines relationship is now seeing a rainbow after the storm and showing a good momentum across the board. We developed closer high-level exchanges, growing interactions at all levels and in broad areas, and expanding consensus on good-neighborliness, mutual respect and mutual trust. Practical cooperation has advanced on all fronts with fruitful results. Cultural and people-to-people exchange has flourished. Since the turnaround of our relations in October last year, the two sides have signed over 20 cooperation documents at the governmental or departmental levels and identified a number of priority infrastructure projects, which are making important progress. The first 10 months of this year saw China become the Philippines’ biggest trading partner, on the back of a surge in Philippine exports to China. Between October last year and the end of June this year, China imported 420,000 tons of tropical fruits from the Philippines worth over $200 million. Your bananas, durians and avocados are increasingly popular in China.

People-to-people exchange has boomed. In the first five months of this year, the number of Chinese tourists to the Philippines had a year-on-year increase of 36.3 percent. Boracay island and other scenic spots are hosting a growing number of Chinese tourists.

China also provided timely weaponry assistance in the counter-terrorism campaign in Marawi, and on the second day after the campaign successfully concluded, Chinese engineering machinery were delivered for local reconstruction.

The improvement and growth of the China-Philippines relations enjoys the support of the people and serves their wellbeing. We now face precious opportunities and broad space for furthering our friendship and cooperation. As a Filipino proverb says, seize today, or you will lose tomorrow. We are ready to work with the Philippines to seize these opportunities to take our bilateral relations forward and break new ground in our friendship and cooperation.

• Good faith and sincerity help ensure steady and sustained growth of China-Philippines relations. It is as critical to inter-personal relations as it is to inter-state relations. China is ready to work with the Philippines to strengthen high-level exchanges, and dialogue and cooperation in all areas. We need to treat each other with respect and sincerity, enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust, and fully solidify the political foundation of strategic mutual trust. China will work with the Philippines to continue to properly handle the maritime issues through friendly bilateral consultation by giving full play to such mechanisms as the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea and the Joint Coast Guard Committee on Maritime Cooperation. We may also strengthen dialogue and cooperation on marine scientific research, marine-environmental conservation and ocean disaster preparedness, and actively explore joint development, to make the South China Sea a sea of cooperation and friendship for the benefit of the two peoples.

• Results-oriented cooperation helps make the China-Philippines relationship firm and robust. Strategically located, the Philippines is an important hub both on the ancient and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. China will work with the Philippines to enhance strategic and policy synergy through the Belt and Road Initiative, and deepen cooperation in infrastructure, commerce, agriculture and tourism to reinvigorate the ancient Silk Road. China is ready to buy more Filipino coconuts, durians, pitayas (dragon fruit) and other tropical fruits, expedite our infrastructure cooperation projects and help the Philippines with more livelihood projects. Given our high complementarity in many areas, China is committed to results-oriented cooperation with the Philippines to strengthen our bilateral relations and instill a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction among our peoples.

• Affinity between our peoples contributes to enduring China-Philippines relations. Friendship between the peoples holds the key to sound state-to-state relations, and heart-to-heart communication contributes to deeper friendship. Our geographical proximity and cultural affinity present a unique advantage for people-to-people exchange. China is ready to increase interaction and cooperation with the Philippines on education, culture, science and technology, and at the non-governmental and sub-national levels to bring our peoples even closer and hand our friendship down to succeeding generations.

Another purpose of my visit is to discuss regional cooperation with leaders of other participating countries. This year marks the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and the 20th anniversary of the launch of ASEAN Plus Three cooperation, and next year will be the 15th anniversary of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. China-ASEAN relations and East Asia cooperation have entered a crucial phase of building on past successes to strive for new progress. As a member of the Asian family, China will take forward relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the neighborhood policy of building friendship and partnership. We support ASEAN in moving forward community building and exercising its centrality in East Asia cooperation. We will work with ASEAN to build a community of shared future featuring common ideals, common prosperity and common responsibility, and together with other countries, push for open, inclusive, balanced and sustainable regional cooperation that benefits all.

Not long ago, the Communist Party of China successfully held its 19th National Congress, which marked the beginning of a new journey in building a modern socialist country. China will remain committed to the path of peaceful development and a win-win strategy of opening-up, pursue open, innovative, inclusive and all-win development, and work toward a community of shared future for mankind. A China that pursues peaceful development, openness, inclusiveness and progress through cooperation will bring important opportunities for the Philippines, the rest of Asia and the world. China will work with other countries to convert opportunities into stronger impetus and real results for common development and shared prosperity.

Looking ahead, we are fully confident about the prospects of our relations. The Chinese people want to be the Philippine people’s sincere friend, close neighbor helping each other through difficulties, steadfast partner forging ahead hand in hand and good brother for generations to come. Let’s work together to open a new chapter for China-Philippines relations.

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