Philippines expected to ink over 10 deals in Marcos state visit to China

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Philippines expected to ink over 10 deals in Marcos state visit to China
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. delivered speech during the Telco Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay on December 6, 2022.
The STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine delegation is expected to sign 10 to 14 bilateral agreements during President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s first visit to China next week. 

It will be Marcos Jr.'s first state visit to a non-ASEAN country since he assumed office this year. He went to New York in September but to attend the UN General Assembly.

"There is an expectation that the state visit will set the tone of bilateral relations between the two countries in the next five to six years," Nathaniel Imperial, assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said in a press briefing on Thursday. 

Marcos Jr. accepted in November the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, with a China trip scheduled for January 3 to 5. The president previously said he wants to “increase the scope” of Manila’s relationship with Beijing, going beyond West Philippine Sea issues, but also promised that he will not “abandon even a square inch” of the country’s territory. 

The West Philippine Sea remains a sore spot for the two countries' bilateral relations as China continues to ignore a 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its nine-dash claims over the disputed waters. 

RELATED: Marcos foreign policy so far: Clear stance on sea dispute, clemency bid for Mary Jane Veloso

Schedule, expectations while in China

There are several bilateral agreements covering trade and investments, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, and development cooperation expected to be signed during the trip. Among them are:

  • Memorandum of Understanding on digital cooperation
  • A direct communication agreement on WPS
  • 1.5-billion renminbi grant from China
  • Agreement for the construction of three Philippine priority bridges and floodway bridge projects
  • MOU on tourism cooperation

In turn, the Philippines plans to renew its commitment and participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

The Philippine delegation is scheduled to leave the country on the afternoon of January 3, but most official meetings are slated for January 4. Marcos Jr. will meet with Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang, and Chinese President Xi. 

“We do not wish to preempt or to second guess what [Marcos Jr.] will say to his counterpart but the president will raise important issues affecting our bilateral relations, among them the issue on the West Philippine Sea,” Imperial said. 

This will be Marcos Jr. and Xi’s second meeting, following a brief meet at the sidelines of the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit last November.

After reports of China’s construction activities in unoccupied features of the Spratly Islands, there has been a renewed call for the president to discuss the West Philippine Sea issue during his meeting with President Xi. 

READ: Philippines ‘concerned’ over report on China’s construction activities in Spratlys

Meanwhile, business meetings will also be held on January 4 and 5, where “a number of major business deals” are expected to be signed between both countries and private firms. Imperial explained that China has a special interest in Philippine agriculture, renewable energy, nickel processing, and the exportation of Durian. 

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the chief executive will not meet with the Filipino community, which has always been part of the president’s itinerary when he goes out of the country. 

Who is part of the Philippine delegation?

Aside from a “sizable” business delegation, the following were named as included in the Philippine delegation:

  • First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos
  • House Speaker Martin Romualdez
  • Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo
  • Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno
  • Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual
  • Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco
  • Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy
  • Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Members of the Philippine delegation will remain in a "bubble" as COVID-19 cases in China continue to rise. Imperial said both countries are working out a plan in case someone tests positive during the state visit.

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