Philippines president leads business delegation to China

August 29, 2011

Philippine President Benigno Aquino will lead some 300 businessmen when he visits China from Tuesday August 30 to September 3, 2011.

Mr Aquino's state visit comes amid the ongoing tensions in the Spratly Islands, and the anniversary of the Manila bus hostage tragedy that killed eight Hong Kong tourists.

Trade and investments will be the main agenda of President Aquino during his visit to China.

Among the trade agreements to be signed is a five-year development program for trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.

It will focus on infrastructure, mining, energy, information and tourism, which will generate US$60 billion in investments for the Philippines.

Liu Jianchao, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, said: "The President said last year that the Philippine economy is taking off and China is ready and willing to add power to the wings of the Philippine economy. So this is a perfect time that our business leaders meet and seek the ways and channels and opportunities for future cooperation."

Contentious issues such as the territorial dispute over the Spratly islands might also be raised by President Aquino, but both sides agree that the controversial issue will not affect bilateral relations.

China maintains its willingness to partner with claimant-countries including the Philippines to jointly explore the contested group of islands.

Liu said: "We do hope that this will materialize as soon as possible because we do believe that this is the best way for the claiming parties to have opportunities of cooperation rather than indulging in any kind of conflict. I hope that we can all be open and we can always be realistic, so that we can really find something that we can agree upon so that we can have joint exploration and cooperation."

Aside from promoting the Philippines as a business destination, President Aquino will also promote the Philippines as a tourist hub.

With tourist arrivals from China posting an annual growth rate of about 20 per cent, it is now one of the country's fastest-growing markets. This is despite the bungled hostage rescue last year that killed eight tourists from Hong Kong.

Though China will not be asking Hong Kong to lift its black travel warning to the Philippines, China will continue to promote exchanges with the Philippines.

Liu said: "Yes, the relationship really has gone through some tests in the past year but our past experience tells us that we could put solutions to all these crisis, all these issues in a way that will not affect the relationship. But rather, after we successfully found solution to these problems, we can even strengthen the relationship."

Aside from Beijing, President Aquino will also be going to Shanghai and Xiamen, where he will be paying respects to his Chinese ancestors. It is such kinship between the two countries that gives rise to optimism that both countries will be able to resolve sensitive issues that have strained bilateral relations.

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