MANILA, Philippines – Filipino and Chinese business leaders are expected to sign memoranda of understanding (MOU) on the sidelines of the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Beijing next week.
“There will be some MOUs to be signed between the various industries. We’re signing, like for the MOU, the banks, for the assistance of the SME [small and medium enterprises] industry,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president George Barcelon told Rappler on Thursday, October 13, on the sidelines of a Manila business convention.
Barcelon is part of the large business delegation that will accompany Duterte during his China visit from October 18 to 21.
Agreements on “some projects on infrastructure,” including power and transportation projects, are also expected to be discussed during the trip, he said.
Duterte has spoken of China’s offer to build major railways in the Philippines.
Even during his presidential campaign, he has said he is open to assistance from China in the construction of 4 “legacy” railway projects in the Philippines, possibly in exchange for the sharing of natural resources in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Around 400 businessmen will joint the Philippine business delegation to China, Barcelon said.
He described the delegation as being a “broad representation” of various industries such as agriculture, service, banking, and manufacturing.
Business forum in Beijing
The Filipino business delegation is set to meet with Chinese businessmen in a forum in Beijing on October 20.
“Like any conference, we’ll meet, we’ll discuss. It will just be between the [Philippine] delegation and the Chinese counterpart,” said Barcelon.
Arrangements were made for the forum with the China Chambers of Commerce, he added.
“Having this meeting is a start of something good,” he told Rappler.
Duterte’s state visit comes 3 months after an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines over China in their dispute in the South China Sea.
The bid of then President Benigno Aquino III to pursue the case against China through international arbitration – made amid China’s massive reclamation activities in the disputed area – had further soured relations between the Philippines and China.
Renewal of ties
But Duterte has made friendly overtures to China, on the one hand saying he won’t “flaunt” the international arbitration ruling, while on the other, saying he wants stronger economic ties with the Asian giant.
Reinvigorated trade between China and the Philippines is something Filipino businessmen look forward to, said Barcelon. The inclusion of a huge business delegation to Duterte’s state visit is seen as a step closer to this.
“It’s really the renewal of the closeness between China and the Philippines. Of course, there has been a lot of trade going on between China and the Philippines but last year, because of some of the issues, the agri exports were affected,” said Barcelon.
Bilateral investments between the two countries are heavily tipped to China’s favor.
Duterte is expected to hold bilateral meetings with top Chinese officials during his visit. They are expected to discuss the West Philippine Sea dispute, fishing rights of Filipinos in the disputed areas, and cooperation in curbing transnational crime and illegal drugs, aside from trade and investments.
The Philippines is pursuing a two-track system of dialogue with China to allow them to cooperate in some areas while separately handling “contentious issues” such as the maritime dispute. – Rappler.com