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PHL, China to open ‘fast-track lane’ for key sectors’ staff

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THE PHILIPPINES and China have agreed to set up reciprocal “fast track” lanes for human resources in key industries such as infrastructure and trade amid the coronavirus pandemic, Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. on Saturday met Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in China to discuss response programs on the health crisis, and cooperation in infrastructure and in the disputed South China Sea.

“Secretary Locsin and Foreign Minister Wang confirmed the prospective establishment of a Fast Lane for Urgently Needed Personnel Exchanges between the Philippines and China to facilitate, with due safeguards, the movement of essential official exchanges and travel by personnel in crucial industries,” DFA said in a statement.

This will cover business and trade, infrastructure, logistics, production and technical services.

Mr. Locsin visited China from Oct. 9-11 for a bilateral meeting with his counterpart to discuss points of cooperation under the “new normal.” It was his first visit overseas since February, the DFA noted.

Mr. Wang pushed for the personnel exchange meant to ensure continuity of operations in health and other projects as he reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to support the Philippines in battling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which was first reported in Hubei province in China.

“The two sides should advance personnel exchanges on the premise of epidemic prevention and control, and promote the resumption of work and production, as well as cooperation on major bilateral projects,” Mr. Wang said in a Xinhua report.

He added China will work with the Philippine government in negotiations on the South China Sea Code of Conduct, which has a timeline of three-years or until 2021.

The Chinese government will “advance consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, and ensure the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement within this year,” the report also read. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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