By Camille A. Aguinaldo
HARBIN, HEILONGJIANG, CHINA — The Heilongjiang provincial government in China is planning to send a delegation to the Philippines next year or in 2020 to explore business opportunities.
At a symposium with Asian journalists in the province’s capital, Harbin, on Saturday, Heilongjiang Department of Commerce Director Li Leyu said the provincial government is willing to “propose or encourage” Harbin companies to invest or cooperate in the Philippines.
“As the foreign trade promoting department, my department… has reestablished a connection with the Philippines and we are trying to organize a group to visit next year or in 2020 to explore business opportunities,” Mr. Li said, speaking through a translator.
Heilongjiang, in northeastern China, has a population of almost 38 million and shares a border with Russia. The province leads China in the production of crude oil, mainly through China’s largest oilfield, Daqing.
Mr. Li said there used to be four or five Heilongjiang companies operating in the Philippines but they pulled out due to the shaky relationship of the two countries in the past.
“In the past there have been some zigzags in international relations between China and the Philippines. We used to have four or five companies in the Philippines and after that zigzag, they all came back,” he said.
Philippine-China relations hit a snag over the South China Sea maritime dispute following the arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines. With the change of government in 2016, President Rodrigo R. Duterte sought warmer ties with China.
A framework agreement is currently being formed between the Philippines and China in the planned joint exploration in South China Sea. Meanwhile, a high level Philippine delegation, including the country’s economic managers, visited Beijing to secure bilateral deals on China-funded infrastructure projects.
Mr. Li invited the Philippine government, organizations and companies to visit Harbin. He added that more Philippine products can also be introduced to Heilongjiang if demand develops for them.
According to the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, China is currently the Philippines’ second-biggest export market for banana, the country’s number two agricultural commodity after coconut products.
June 2018 export data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show China ranked fourth in export shipments after Hong Kong, United States and Japan. Outbound shipments to China was valued at $729.77 million, comprising 12.8% of total exports for the month.
In the same month, China was the country’s biggest source of imports with a 21.4% share of the $7.04 billion total. Import payments to China hit $1.93 billion.
Mr. Li said Harbin companies specialize in the power and infrastructure sector, which could provide technological support to the Philippines.
“If the Philippines is in need of these kinds of investment in the power sector we would like very much to support our companies in doing these kinds of projects,” he said.