‘House 15’ boosts Philippines-China relations
(The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Vice Minister Chen Fengxiang of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) described the visit of the House of Representatives’ delegation of 15 congresswomen as “the highlight of China-Philippine relations” when he welcomed them in Beijing last week. 

The 15 women lawmakers led by Rep. Gina de Venecia, president of the Association of Women Legislators, were in China from Sept. 15 to 24 on a people-to-people, inter-parliamentary visit upon the invitation of the IDCPC. 

In the meeting between the Chinese officials and the House delegation that focused on the strengthening of bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, Chen expressed his optimism on the future of the countries’ relations.

“Our countries, we have similar bonds. We have a history of a thousand years. We have blood ties. These have been made on the basis of mutual respect and equality. We should all the more cherish these achievements which did not come so easily,” Chen said.

“In the past, even in maritime conflict, we have enjoyed meaningful developments in the South China Sea. It is a pity that at present, we have faced difficulties. If present situation continues, it does not serve the interests of both China and the Philippines. Chinese side is not accepting arbitration to resolve the issue. But there are many areas that bind us together. There are differences, but we all have efforts to improve our bilateral relations.”

Acknowledging the vice minister’s concerns, De Venecia expressed her take on the issue, saying: “I believe that as representatives of our peoples, it is our obligation to find ways to support the zone of peace, friendship and development in the South China Sea and convert it into a binding pact of joint development and friendship among the claimant nations, while respecting the sovereignty of our nations, in the spirit of hu jing hu hui, cong tong fa zhan (mutual respect, mutual benefit, joint development) that I and the former vice chairperson of the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress, Madame Chen Zhilli, agreed on our visit to Beijing in April of 2012.”

Last year, De Venecia filed a proposal in Congress calling for the establishment of a Philippine-China Council to be composed of peace-makers, economic experts, historians and scholars who will meet with counterparts in China to address the problem in the West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with deputy director Rao Huihua of the IDCPC’s First Bureau, De Venecia raised the issues of increased tourism investment and balance of trade.

“Despite the maritime conflict, the alliance between our countries has been steadily improving in other areas over the years”, she said. “In 2014 for example, Philippine records show that China was our 4th largest source of tourists. And because Chinese tourist arrivals continue to grow, we hope that China will consider making more investments in the Philippine tourism sector.”

In the area of trade, she also pushed for bridging the gap between imports and exports. “According to records, our exports to China last year was at$8.03 billion while our imports was at $9.70 billion, registering a difference of $1.67 billion.”

De Venecia likewise thanked the Chinese government for including the Philippines in China’s “One Road, One Belt Initiative” that aims at improving trade and cooperation among the countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe. 

In the delegation’s visit to Guangdong province, the vice president of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies He Chuantian gave the delegation a briefing on the Philippine participation in the said economic agenda, contrary to some press reports indicating the Philippines will not be included in the proposed Maritime Silk Road.

During the 10-day visit, the “House 15” also visited Yunnan province, where they observed many urbanization projects in rural areas and women development programs.

The House 15 was composed of De Venecia (4th district, Pangasinan), Linabelle Ruth Villarica (4th district, Bulacan), Ma. Lourdes Acosta Alba (1st district, Bukidnon), Bellaflor Angara Castillo (Aurora),  Rose Marie Arenas (3rd District, Pangasinan), Belma Cabilao (1st district, Zamboanga Sibugay), Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela), Gwendolyn Garcia (3rd district, Cebu), Ana Cristina Go (2nd district, Isabela), Ann Hofer ( 2nd district, Zamboanga Sibugay), Angelina Katoh (Akbayan), Elisa Kho (2nd district, Masbate), Marie Anne Pernes (Lone District, Siquijor), Erlinda Santiago (1-SAGIP), Juliette Uy (2nd district, Misamis Oriental). Also with the delegation were columnists Domini Torrevillas (The Philippine STAR) and Rina Jimenez David (Philippine Daily Inquirer).

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