China, the Philippines should grasp opportunity to enhance bilateral cooperation

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/23 23:58:39

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is sending a high-ranking delegation to China to enhance economic cooperation, according to media reports. As the president extends an olive branch to China in an attempt to create a commercial alliance after bilateral relations hit rock bottom in July last year due to the South China Sea arbitration, the two countries should not only seize this opportunity to build more intimate ties but also solve deep-seated problems through economic cooperation.

China and the Philippines share a large potential for economic and commerce cooperation in fields such as agriculture, telecommunications and infrastructure. The Philippines urgently needs to upgrade its infrastructure facilities. Additionally, the Philippines is made up of a host of islands, but there has not been enough investment in the construction of ports. The Southeast Asian country will continue to seek foreign investment to fill its funding gap, but Manila may have to put more focus on Asian countries if the US withdraws from the center stage of Asian affairs. In this regard, the Philippines does not have too many choices other than China, a country that leads in global infrastructure investment.

China and the Philippines announced Monday that they will jointly roll out 30 projects worth $3.7 billion to strengthen cooperation, according to media reports. However, government-backed cooperation alone is not enough. More importantly, more interest from China's private companies is needed for investing in the Southeast Asian country. The Philippines should reduce its foreign investment restrictions and further open up its market to Chinese companies.

The issue of corruption among some Philippine politicians and officials is also a question that greatly concerns Chinese investors. The Guardian reported back in 2012 that a court had ordered the arrest of former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's husband "on charges that he received millions of dollars in bribes." The nation still has a long way to go in improving its investment climate. At the very least, the government should make greater efforts in preventing corruption.

China and the Philippines launched a joint exploration for oil and gas resources in the South China Sea during Arroyo's presidency but such efforts suffered a blow after she left office. Some observers suspected that Washington may have played a role in undermining the cooperation between China and the Philippines at a time when subtle changes were taking place in Philippine political circles. It seems that ensuring political stability in the Southeast Asian country is vital. The country should continue efforts to maintain stability, and companies in China and the Philippines should grasp the strategic opportunity offered by the Duterte administration to enhance cooperation as bilateral ties warm up.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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