As Premier Li Keqiang wrapped up his five-day visit to the Philippines on Nov 16, experts said the first visit to Manila by a Chinese Premier in 10 years will draw the two countries even closer together.
Guo Yanjun, deputy director of the Institute of Asian Studies at the China Foreign Affairs University, said the trip has been a milestone in improving China-Philippine ties, and will further consolidate China’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which will contribute to the development of the East Asia economic community.
The five-day visit concluded with the issuance of a joint statement in which the two nations agreed to advance bilateral ties and further cooperate in the key areas of infrastructure, production capacity, investment, commerce, agriculture, improvement of livelihoods, culture and people-to-people exchanges on Nov 16.
During a meeting on Nov 15 with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the presidential palace in Manila, Premier Li reiterated that China stands ready to provide assistance to the Philippines to strengthen the momentum of their ties “to make up for the time we may have lost”.
The two leaders witnessed the signing of 14 cooperation documents covering infrastructure, financing, bridge construction, bond issuance, drug rehabilitation and industrial capacity cooperation.
Hailing Premier Li’s visit as a “momentous occasion for the Philippines”, Duterte said his country welcomes investment from Chinese companies and the chance to learn from China’s development experience and deepen cooperation with China in infrastructure and telecommunications. He also expressed his gratitude for Chinese aid for the rebuilding of the town of Marawi and assistance to boost the Philippines’ infrastructure development initiative. He said China’s assistance comes “at a critical moment” for the Philippines.
Duterte said the Philippines is ready to play a constructive role in China-ASEAN ties, as the Philippines begins its turn as the coordinating state for China-ASEAN ties in 2018.
The talk at the presidential palace came near the end of a week in which Premier Li participated in a series of meetings with high-level leaders in Manila. As the meetings were in progress, China and ASEAN announced the beginning of consultations on the text of a code of conduct in the South China Sea. They also called for advancing the construction of an East Asia economic community for regional integration and common development.