PH, China to boost bilateral relations thru cooperation projects

Published September 8, 2020, 4:47 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian has called on both Manila and Beijing to reinforce the agreement reached by President Duterte and President Xi Jinping to further promote closer bilateral relations between the two countries and push forward with the implementation of cooperation projects.

Huang made this pitch during a telephone conversation with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Monday, September 7. 

Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian

They exchanged views on how to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic to all the ongoing government to government projects (G-to-G) being initiated under Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program and Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The virtual meeting between Huang and Dominguez occurred more than a week after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. indicated that he would recommend the termination of contracts of Chinese companies who were involved in the South China Sea reclamation and artificial island-building.

Locsin’s idea, however, was immediately shot down by no less than President Duterte who declared that all projects with China, including the construction of the US$10-billion Sangley Point International Airport, will push through citing “national interest” as the reason.

The Sangley Point project is a partnership between the State-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and the MacroAsia Corp. owned by Lucio Tan. CCCC was one of the 24 Chinese firms facing sanctions from the United States government for its role in the reclamation and militarization of the South China Sea. 

As Huang commends the efforts being made by both sides to overcome the difficulties posed by the pandemic, he said the G-to-G projects between China and the Philippines have been going on smoothly “so far.” 

“Major projects have resumed operation at over 80 percent capacity. The in-depth synergies of China’s Belt and Road initiative and the ‘Build, Build, Build program have achieved fruitful results, contributing to the recovery of the Philippine economy and bringing more and more benefits to the peoples of the two countries,” Huang said in a statement released by the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

In the same statement, Dominguez was quoted as saying that the Philippines would continue to pursue an “independent foreign policy” and expressed his willingness to collaborate with the Chinese side in pushing forward the G-to-G cooperation projects to ensure the timely completion of flagship projects of the Duterte administration.