1,000 top traders seen to join Duterte events in China
BEIJING — About a thousand top-level businessmen from the Philippines and China are expected to attend Thursday’s much-anticipated business forum with President Rodrigo Duterte, who seeks to repair bilateral ties, which deteriorated in the last five years due to territorial disputes.
In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said around 450 businessmen from the Philippines would fly to the mainland to attend the forum, which would also include a large delegation of Chinese businessmen. He estimated that about 400 Chinese businessmen have committed to attend as of press time.
Based on Philippine embassy estimates, the number of delegates from China could swell to 600.
“I see excitement from both sides, and also from our business sector as we warm up relationship with China,” Lopez said.
“China is a natural business partner as there’s connection historically (alongside) trading relationship and family ties over the years,” he added.
The private sector delegation from the Philippines will include business tycoons like Hans Sy (SM group), Lance Gokongwei (JG Summit), Lucio Tan (LT Group), Carlos Chan (Liwayway Group), Ramon Ang (San Miguel group), Andrew Tan (Megaworld/Alliance Global Group), Fernando Zobel de Ayala (Ayala group), Enrique Razon Jr. (ICTSI), Manuel Pangilinan (First Pacific group), Tony Tan Caktiong (Jollibee Foods Corp.), Edgar Sia II (DoubleDragon Properties) and Alfredo Yao (Zest-O group).
The Philippine-China Trade and Investment Forum will be held on Thursday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People. This is also where the President will have bilateral meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Zhang Deijiang, chair of the standing committee of National People’s Congress.
Several bilateral agreements and private sector deals are expected to be signed during this historic state visit, which is closely watched by international observers given its impact on geopolitical dynamics in the region.
“President Duterte is bridging a sea of friendship and breaking the sea of barrier. He is bringing back peace and fair commerce and movement of people, bringing back smooth harmony in the region around us which was present in historic times until colonialism came in,” Lopez said.
Lopez said this visit would promote “peace and friendship in the region” and present the Philippines as “a free sovereign nation, strong leadership, a friend to all, enemy of no one.”
Mr. Duterte’s pivot to China comes at a time that diplomatic relations with the US have come under strain.
The last time that a business forum with the Philippine head of state was in 2011 under the term of President Benigno Aquino III. The forum likewise attracted a huge crowd of Philippine and Chinese businessmen but in the following years, bilateral ties deteriorated due to maritime dispute. Recently, a UN Tribunal upheld the Philippines’ maritime rights in disputed territories.
Since the Philippines and China established diplomatic relations in 1975, the two countries have concluded almost 100 bilateral agreements covering a wide spectrum — politics, defense, trade and investments, judicial cooperation, infrastructure development, energy cooperation, air services, cooperation in combatting transnational crimes, consular cooperation, tourism, culture, sports, media exchange, agriculture, science and technology, sister cities and people-to-people exchanges.
The “One China” policy is the governing principle in Philippine relations with China. SFM
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.