By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
THE PHILIPPINES and China on Tuesday signed at least 29 bilateral agreements, covering a wide range of development initiatives such as infrastructure, agriculture, trade, monetary and humanitarian assistance, on the occasion of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Philippines.
The agreements include memoranda of understanding (MoU) on cooperation on oil and gas development; and cooperation on basic education, information and communications technology, and cultural exchange.
Also signed were MoU on the Panda bonds issuance and on key infrastructure projects in the Davao region.
There was also a signing of an agreement on the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project and an exchange of letters on the China Aid Bridge and Road Project in Marawi.
An MoU on the cooperation between the Foreign Service Institute of the Republic of the Philippines and the China Foreign Affairs University of the People’s Republic of China was also signed.
Mr. Xi was welcomed by Mr. Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Carpio-Duterte, and other government officials at Malacañang on Tuesday afternoon.
Schoolchildren holding Chinese and Philippine flags lined up outside Malacañang to greet Mr. Xi upon his arrival.
At a Palace briefing on Tuesday morning, a few hours before Mr. Xi’s arrival, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said Mr. Duterte was expected to “persuade” Mr. Xi to fulfill China’s loan pledges worth US$24 billion.
Mr. Panelo noted that this amount was promised two years ago during Mr. Duterte’s first visit to Beijing. “Only a fraction of it was given,” he said.
He mentioned that only around US$100 million was released, which covered the construction of two bridges in Manila, the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and the Estrellia-Pantaleon Bridge, and the Chico River Pump Irrigation Facility in Northern Luzon. “There is bureaucracy, not only in this country but also in China, so it takes time. Hopefully we will hurdle [this],” he said.
In his arrival statement, Mr. Xi said: “As we speak, it is already winter in the northern part of the globe but here we are enjoying refreshing breeze and exceptional scenes. And this is exactly what the China-Philippine relationship is today.”
At Malacañang, Mr. Xi later touched on the matter of the South China Sea, saying, “China and the Philippines have a lot of common interests in the South China Sea. We will continue to manage contentious issues and promote maritime cooperation through friendly consultations. And we will work alongside other ASEAN countries towards the conclusion of the CoC (Code of Conduct) consultations based on consensus within three years, and contribute our share to peace, stability and welfare in the region.”
Mr. Panelo earlier said the 2016 Hague ruling on the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China is “useless for now.”
“The United Nations is not enforcing it. The United States is adamant in doing it too, so who will enforce it? Meanwhile, what are we going to do?” Mr. Panelo said.
Mr. Duterte for his part said, “In the past two years, we have worked hard to lay the cornerstones for the continued advancement of our beneficial cooperation in a wide range of areas.”
“A lot of work remains, but President Xi’s visit gives us new impetus to our mutual efforts to enhance collaboration in ensuring the well-being of our peoples and contributing to peace and stability in the region,” the Philippine leader also said.