Duterte: Philippines’ future is with Asean, Asia
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — President Duterte on Tuesday emphasized the importance of forging economic ties with the country’s regional neighbors and highlighted his belief that “indeed the future of the Philippines is in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and in Asia.”
Upon his return from a six-day trip to two economic gatherings in the region, Duterte also underscored the growing importance of China as a source of huge investments for the Philippines even as the government embarks on an ambitious infrastructure development program.
The “growing economies of Southeast Asia stands at the center of the Asia-Pacific…Responsible economic partners are our new allies in nation-building and regional integration,” he said.
Duterte said working with fellow member-states of the regional bloc could help “narrow the development gap.”
“I spoke of opportunities of mutually beneficial partnership especially in the Philippines’ infrastructure development goal. With ‘Build, build and build,’ I invited the stakeholders to take part in what is the largest effort to date to modernize and integrate the Philippines’ infrastructure,” the President said.
In Phnom Penh, Duterte attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) before flying to Beijing for the two-day Belt and Road Initiative.
He said his message in Phnom Penh “resonated, particularly our commitment to provide the enabling environment of business to thrive, with criminality addressed, corruption curbed and contractual obligations complied (with).”
The President also met with China’s leaders, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, during the two-day event in Beijing, with leaders from both countries renewing their resolve to “strengthen friendship and mutually beneficial partnership.”
China’s initiative to extend economic cooperation aims to revive and expand the ancient Silk Road from Central Asia down to the Asean, and countries in Africa and Europe.
“With One Belt and One Road, we had the opportunities to synergize our efforts to bring progress and prosperity and the peace and stability that our people and our region deserve,” Duterte said, adding Beijing had the money it wanted to share.
“China is very liberal and generous,” Duterte added.
Started by Xi in 2013, China’s ambitious infrastructure aid to developing countries carries an $890-billion price tag.
Duterte said Beijing has pledged “hundreds of millions of pesos” worth of infrastructure projects that included two bridges over Pasig River, and a major railway.
While portions of the infrastructure package could be financed by private debt institutions, Duterte said part of the pledge would come in grants or for free.
The President expressed hope the projects could start within the year.
Duterte also announced that Beijing has opened its doors to Filipino professionals, such as engineers and English teachers, to work there.
“They need many teachers,” he said. SFM/rga