Chinese premier's visit to Manila boon to Sino-Philippine relations: congressman

The upcoming visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Manila next week is a boon to the warming-up diplomatic ties between Manila and Beijing, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives told Xinhua.

Rep. Arthur Yap, chairman of the House of Economic Affairs Committee, said Li's scheduled official visit to the Philippines will bring more opportunities for cooperation.

"If there are increased interactions between our leaders, and this is regularly and constantly done, then there will be more avenues and opportunities for us to discuss issues. Hopefully, when we have opportunities for all these issues, of course, the future will be brighter (for the Philippines and China)," Yap said in an interview with Xinhua.

"As neighbors and brothers, we must try to look out for each other. As long as the relationship is benefitting and progressing for both of us, then the relationship can only strengthen and improve for both of us," Yap said.

The Chinese premier will pay an official visit to the Philippines at the invitation of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Li will attend the leaders' summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia summit next week from Nov. 12 to Nov. 16. Li will also attend the leaders' meeting of ASEAN-China.

Besides the ASEAN-China summit, Li will also attend the ASEAN+3 summit with Japanese and South Korean leaders, and the leaders' meeting on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) during his stay in Manila.

Yap is optimistic that the China-Philippines economic relations will further strengthen in the months to come.

"I feel that with the warming-up of the relationship between China and the Philippines, the area of economy can only improve. So we are very happy about that," Yap said.

Relations between China and the Philippines, which span several centuries, have been predominantly warm and cordial. But in recent years, the dispute in the South China Sea got in the way, resulting in the "cooling off" of relations, according to the congressman.

Duterte's visit to Beijing in October last year restored the frayed bilateral ties, he said.

Warming bilateral relations have been translated into economic benefits for both sides. And China is currently the Philippines' largest trading partner, largest import market and the fourth largest export destination, Yap said.

The Philippines is keen to see more Chinese investments in the future. "We hope that with the upcoming visit of Premier Li Keqiang, we can hear more news about the Chinese direct investment to the Philippines," Yap said.

Yap said the Philippines "has a lot of advantages."

"First, the Philippines is in the central position of Southeast Asia, which has 600 million consumers."

"Second, the Philippines is not far away from China. And third, Chinese investors and businessmen can use the Philippines as an intermediate point ship to the whole Asia," he said.

The Philippines also has a lot of preferential trade agreements with big economies such as the European Union and the United States.

Yap also lauded China's Belt and Road Initiative, saying "stronger economic trade is anchored in the integration."

The Philippines will definitely benefit from the initiative, he said.

Yap noted China's commitment to giving official development assistance to the Philippines.

"I think the Philippines just need to get the act together and rush and make sure we can implement all these projects ahead of time," he said.

Yap stressed the need to sustain the momentum in various areas.

"We must bring culture, sports, education, science and technology into play," the congressman said.

Editor: zhangjunmian