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Beijing, Manila agree on $3.7b in shared projects

Zhang Yunbi and Jing Shuiyu
Updated: Jan 24,2017 9:18 AM     China Daily

Officials representing Beijing and Manila shook hands on joint projects worth $3.7 billion on Jan 23 during a meeting in the Chinese capital.

The agreement was the latest evidence of warming ties between China and the Philippines.

While the specific types of deals and locations were not revealed, the package is the initial installment of planned cooperative projects that aims to improve livelihoods, Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng told reporters at a news briefing. The briefing came after discussions with a delegation led by Philippines Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

Dominguez, in China from Jan 22 to Jan 24, led a heavyweight delegation that includes ministerial officials responsible for areas such as economic planning, telecommunications, financing and public projects.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that several Filipino ministers have led delegations to China recently to discuss such areas as trade, infrastructure and energy.

This has “fully showcased the consistent increase in mutual trust and increasingly deepened cooperative relationships,” Hua said on Jan 23.

Also on Jan 23, the two sides agreed to a speedy resumption of meetings of the China-Philippines Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation, an important body that ground to a halt in 2012 as the relationship deteriorated over territorial sovereignty issues.

Vice-Premier Wang Yang, who met with the Philippines delegation on Jan 23, said the countries also should gear up their joint efforts in drafting a plan for bilateral economic and trade cooperation and press ahead with their priority bilateral projects.

China is now the second-largest trade partner of the Philippines.

The relationship warmed markedly after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte paid his first state visit to China in October. Duterte is expected to make a second trip to China in May to attend an international forum on building the China-led Belt and Road Initiative.

Manila is seeking greater infrastructure cooperation within the initiative’s framework, Dominguez said. “We think that both our governments, as well as both our peoples, will move quickly to support (projects under) this initiative in the Philippines.”

Luo Yongkun, a researcher in Southeast Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, noted that although the Philippines’ economy has seen rapid growth in the past few years, it is still weak in infrastructure and is in need of foreign investment.

Two-way ties, frozen by the South China Sea arbitration case brought by former Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, showed signs of reviving after Rodrigo Duterte took office in June and decided to thaw ties with Beijing by shelving maritime disputes.

This month, senior diplomats from both sides agreed to establish bilateral consultations on the South China Sea issue to address concerns and promote maritime cooperation.

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