What friendship with China can bring us

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

It is regrettable that President Duterte’s time is being taken up by the De Lima scandal. But then if it is proven that the love affair between the former justice secretary and her driver includes their cooperation with drug lords, then the President has no choice but to tackle the issue. I think that he has a lot of other important work to attend to besides dealing with a sex scandal. Imagine what it would have been if Duterte had not won with De Lima and her kind in government and former president Aquino not doing anything about it.

The most important news as far as I am concerned is the visit of former President Fidel Ramos as a special envoy of President Duterte to China. As he said, he will only be there to break the ice to return the good relations with China.

That does not mean giving up the claims but only doing what other ASEAN members do. That had been the Philippine-China was already on the table as the Deng Xiaoping formula. He met with a senior Chinese official during a trip to Hong Kong aimed at improving ties between Manila and Beijing, with both sides working towards formal discussions.

Ramos had discussions with Madam Fu Ying, chair of the foreign affairs committee of the National People’s Congress – China’s communist-controlled legislature. Fu Ying is a former ambassador to Manila.

He also met with Wu Shichun, president of China’s National Institute of South China Seas Studies.

In a statement signed by Ramos, Fu Ying and Wu, the meeting was described as between “old friends” and had taken place “in a friendly atmosphere.”

An AFP report said Ramos told reporters they had not discussed territorial disputes in the South China Sea but they had talked about fishing rights in conflict areas.

“They discussed, in their private capacity, the way forward in the spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood for peace and cooperation between the two countries,” the joint statement said.

It added that all parties “looked forward” to the start of formal talks which it said would be continued in Beijing and Manila.

Ramos said there would be a second round of discussions soon.

Last week I wrote a general picture of the conflict.

Today I will tackle some of the reasons why we should adopt a more diplomatic approach as the other countries in the Asian region have done.

“China is pushing forward the Belt and Road Initiative, under which the Philippines is an important destination. China’s technology, financing and manufacturing capabilities can meet Philippines urgent need in improving the poor infrastructure, which hinders Philippine economic developments.

Recently Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB and Asian Development Bank signed a cooperative memorandum which laid the foundation of project funding cooperation between the two regional banks.

The Philippines badly needs a high quality railway system all across Luzon. Right now it takes seven hours to travel from Manila to Baguio and more than 12 hours from Manila to Legazpi City. China is helping Indonesia build a railway system

China has built 8 industrial parts in 7 member countries of ASEAN (the Philippines not included). Some of the parks (such as in Thailand) attract more than a hundred Chinese companies to invest in. If such an economic zone is built in the Philippines, it can greatly boost local manufacturing capacity, trade and economic development as well as employment and government revenues.

China and the Philippines have great potential on agricultural cooperation. With the largest national population on earth, China successfully feeds its people on its own. China’s agriculture science and technology can be introduced and implemented here under cooperation programs. Under the framework of China-ASEAN-FTA the Philippines can promote more agricultural products export to China including the loved tropical fruits. China is assisting many developing countries in their irrigation system construction, under the government soft loan scheme. The Philippine agricultural sector also needs such an upgrade.”

The Ramos trip to China to “break the ice” can have immediate results from a two-track friendship that is expected when the two heads of state President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese president Xi Jinping meet at the earliest possible time. Such cooperation was already envisioned in past admirations but was abruptly stopped when Aquino became president.

Both countries are working towards formal discussions. It listed seven topics that had been covered, including marine preservation and co-operation on crime-fighting and smuggling.

Ramos said did not about territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but had talked about fishing rights there.

“As to where this will take place we don’t know yet. We have to go back to Manila to find out the latest developments on the official side,” he said.

MISCELLANY As promised I will include articles on our relations with Latin American countries. The last one on Cuba and its program of free studies in medicine was well liked by readers of this column.

Here’s one about APEC and PECC in Peru.

Trade Ministers from 21 APEC member economies are gathering in Arequipa, Peru for this year’s Minister Responsible for Trade Meeting.

During the meeting, Trade Ministers will consider recommendations from the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and APEC’s Official Observers — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council and Pacific Island Forum.

PECC Co-Chair Ambassador Tang Guoqiang led the PECC delegation attended the APEC Informal Senior Official Meeting and Symposium on 2016 APEC Priorities in Lima, Peru December 10-11 2015. Eduardo Pedrosa, PECC Secretary General was invited to make a presentation at the symposium.


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