15 women legislators win plaudits in China visit
Fifteen women lawmakers from the Philippines impressed their hosts during a recent tour of China to meet with government officials, visit urban and rural projects and try to repair the strained relations between the two countries.
“The highlight of China-Philippine relations” was how Vice Minister Chen Fengxiang of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) described the visitors from the Philippine House of Representatives as he welcomed them to Beijing.
The 15 were led by Rep. Gina de Venecia, president of the Association of Women Legislators. Their 10-day visit in late September was on the invitation of the IDCPC.
In a meeting between Chinese officials and the House delegation on strengthening bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, Chen expressed optimism about the future of the two nations’ relations.
“Our countries, we have similar bonds. We have a history of a thousand years. We have blood ties. These have been made on the basis of mutual respect and equality. We should all the more cherish these achievements which did not come so easily,” he said.
Improve bilateral relations
He added: “In the past, even in maritime conflict, we enjoyed meaningful developments in the South China Sea. It is a pity that at present we face difficulties. If the present situation continues, it does not serve the interests of both China and the Philippines. The Chinese side is not accepting arbitration to resolve the issue. But there are many areas that bind us together. There are differences. But we all have to make efforts to improve our bilateral relations.”
For her part, De Venecia said: “I believe that as representatives of our peoples, it is our obligation to find ways to support the zone of peace, friendship and development in the South China Sea and convert it into a binding pact of joint development and friendship, while respecting the sovereignty of our nations, in the spirit of ‘hu jing hu hui, cong tong fa zhan’ (mutual respect, mutual benefit, joint development) that I and the former vice chair of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, Madame Chen Zhili, agreed on during our visit to Beijing in April of 2012.”
Later, in a meeting with Deputy Director Rao Huihua of the IDCPC’s First Bureau, De Venecia raised the issues of tourism investment and balance of trade.
“Despite the maritime conflict, the alliance between our countries has been steadily improving in other areas,” she said. “In 2014, China was our fourth largest source of tourists. And because Chinese tourist arrivals continue to grow, we hope China will consider making more investments in the Philippine tourism sector.”
On trade, De Venecia pushed for bridging the gap between Philippine and Chinese exports and imports.
One Belt, One Road Initiative
“Our exports to China last year were at US$8.03 billion while our imports were at US$9.70 billion, a difference of US$1.67 billion,” she pointed out.
De Venecia thanked the Chinese government for including the Philippines in China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative that aims to improve trade and cooperation among countries of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
In the delegation’s visit to Guangdong province, the vice president of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, professor He Chuantian, briefed them on Philippine participation in the One Road economic agenda, which contradicted US press reports that the Philippines would not be included in the proposed Maritime Silk Road.
The representatives also went to Yunnan province, where they observed urbanization projects in rural areas and women development programs.
The other members of the group were Representatives Linabelle Ruth Villarica, Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Rose Marie Arenas, Belma Cabilao, Emmi de Jesus, Gwen Garcia, Ana Cristina Go, Ann Hofer, Angelina Katoh, Elisa Kho, Marie Anne Pernes, Erlinda Santiago and Juliette Uy.
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