By Genalyn Kabiling
BOAO, China – The Philippines and China not only stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” in the campaign against terrorism, illegal drugs, and criminality but also are “partners” in economic and infrastructure development cooperation, President Duterte declared Tuesday.
Addressing the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) opening plenary here, the President highlighted the country’s mutually beneficial engagement with China, citing that both countries are “sovereign equals” that work together for shared growth.
“With China, we stand together in the war on criminality and the illegal drug trade. We are shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism,” the President said during his debut appearance at the economic forum held in China’s southern island of Hainan.
“Make no mistake: There can be no progress without stability in Asia’s lands and waters,” he added.
Apart from combatting security threats, the President mentioned the country’s robust ties with China in infrastructure development, citing economic cooperation based on complementarities.
“As sovereign equals, the Philippines and China are partners in the building of the much-needed infrastructure that are building blocks and bridges of greater understanding between our peoples,” he said.
“We are working together on strengthening economic complementarities,” he added.
Apart from China, the President assured that the Philippines is ready to work with all nations in the region to seek friendship and cooperation. “Let me say it again: The Philippines’ destiny is in Asia,” he added.
The President’s remarks came before his scheduled bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BFA annual conference here.
Duterte had earlier said he looks forward to his meeting with Xi on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of issues. “As friends and sovereign equals, we will review the progress of our efforts and chart ways to ensure prosperity for our nation and region,” he said.
In the same forum, Duterte said the Philippines is determined to increase public investments on infrastructure, innovation, and interconnectivity to attain the dream of a comfortable life for Filipinos.
He highlighted the country’s achievements on improved economic and peace and order situation, among others, and vowed to build on these gains.
“We are slowly making the Filipino dream a reality. As we strive to push our economy forward, we encounter challenges but we will not be deterred. We seek to partner with responsible businesses – home-grown and foreign based – to drive the progress we envision,” he said.
“With Good Governance as a basis of our sound economic policy, the Philippines will do more to increase investments in the country, particularly in infrastructure, innovation and interconnectivity,” he added.
Duterte said the government’s “ambitious” plans include spending five to seven percent of the gross domestic product on infrastructure development.
“We aim to reduce poverty from 22 percent in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022. We intend to achieve growth of seven to eight percent every year up to 2022,” he said.
He said the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program also aims to provide a solid backbone for growth. The massive infrastructure program seeks upgrade infrastructure, connect more people and communities and create more jobs, he said.
“Already we have started a three-year rolling program amounting to over US$69 billion until 2022,” he said.
The administration also plans to pour resources in promoting innovation in government processes, technology and human development, according to Duterte.
“By 2022, the Philippines sees itself as joining the top one-third in the Global Innovation Index. We will empower more Filipinos with better knowledge, skills and expertise,” he said.
With the Innovation Council under the Department of Science and Technology, Duterte also vowed to improve the competitiveness and productivity of micro, small and medium enterprises in the country.
With greater access to technology and financing, he also committed to apply science, technology and innovation in agriculture and the service industries.
He said they also plan to invest in improving research and development and intensify international cooperation in this key area. “We are willing to learn from others,”Duterte said.
Also, the President said the Philippines will remain committed to interconnectivity, both in functional terms and in political engagement.
“We will continue our efforts to broaden and deepen our economic engagement and cooperation with our friends and neighbors. We must harness the potential for shared growth in our region and beyond,” he said.
Asian markets rallied
In the same Boao Forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping eased worries over a simmering US trade conflict by promising new measures to open his country’s massive economy “wider and wider.”
Xi’s assurance, prompted Asian markets to rally Tuesday.
In a closely watched speech at the BoaoForum – dubbed the Asian Davos – he pledged a “new phase of opening up,” adding that Beijing “does not seek a trade surplus” and wants to boost imports.
After starting the day cautiously, dealers pounced on the comments as a sign that a possible trade war between the world’s top two powers can be averted.
Markets have been roiled in recent weeks as the White House has announced a series of tariffs mostly on Chinese goods as part of his “America First” protectionist agenda, fuelling fears of potentially devastating tit-for-tat measures that could hammer the global economy.
China’s massive surplus with the US is a key complaint of Trump’s who accuses the country of unfair trade practices that hurt American jobs.
His latest measures on Friday battered US stocks, though hopes the issue can be resolved saw Asia post gains on at the start of this week.
“Xi’s speech sends a positive signal to the market since he backs globalization and the opening up of China market,” Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities, told Bloomberg News.
“Investors were very worried about trade disputes, while his speech calms the nerves a lot. The concern about trade disputes in near-term are still here however, since what Xi pictures is a very long-term picture.”
Fresh Trump probe woe
Shanghai climbed 0.5 percent, Hong Kong jumped 0.9 percent and Tokyo added more than one percent by the break.
Sydney – where a number of firms are listed that rely on China trade – rose 0.8 percent, Singapore put on 0.2 percent and Seoul added 0.3 percent.
There were also healthy gains in Wellington, Taipei, and Indonesia.
After last week’s plunge, all three main indexes on Wall Street ended in positive territory Monday but eased from earlier highs after it emerged the FBI had raided the offices of Trump’s long-time personal lawyer.
Michael Cohen has admitted to paying porn actress Stephanie Clifford $130,000. Clifford, who goes by Stormy Daniels, claims she received the money to cover up a sexual encounter with Trump more than a decade ago.
The move is the latest volley in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Russia collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign.
It adds to the sense of turmoil on Pennsylvania Avenue and Trump slammed the raid as “disgraceful,” a “witch-hunt” and “an attack on our country.”
Adding to uncertainty for traders are geopolitical worries after an alleged toxic gas attack that killed dozens in a rebel-held Syrian town, which prompted Trump to indicate a decision could be taken imminently on military action.
Russia, which backs the Syrian regime, has warned against such a move, saying it could have “grave repercussions.”
Tensions in the Middle East have buoyed oil prices, which extended Monday’s rally, with gains also helped by speculation the US will tear up the Iran nuclear deal. (With AFP)