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High Hopes for ‘Mutual Benefit’ Agreements from Philippine President’s Visit to China

Jan. 3, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. began a Jan. 3-5 visit to China on Tuesday, during which anywhere between 10 and 14 cooperation agreements are expected to be signed. While Western media headlines focus on tensions and the “maritime dispute” between the two countries, official statements from both countries are completely different, expressing great hopes for the increased development and friendship which should result from the trip.

President Marcos said in a speech before leaving today:

“I will be opening a new chapter in our comprehensive strategic cooperation with China.... I look forward to my meeting with President Xi as we work towards shifting the trajectory of our relations to a higher gear that would hopefully bring numerous prospects and abundant opportunities for peace and development to the peoples of both our countries.”

He named agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and trade as areas for particular cooperation.

He referenced the maritime border issue, but from a higher standpoint, declaring that “the issues between our two countries are problems that do not belong between two friends such as Philippines and China. We will seek to resolve those issues to the mutual benefit of our two countries.”

Philippine Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Nathaniel Imperial reported in a pre-trip briefing Dec. 29 that among the agreements to be signed is a memorandum of understanding on a direct line between the Chinese and Philippines Foreign Ministries for maritime issues, in order “to avoid miscalculation and miscommunication.” Another will be a “joint action plan on agricultural and fisheries cooperation,” another Foreign Ministry official reported today.

Chinese media coverage has been enthusiastic about the prospects for the visit. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, when asked about the trip on Dec. 30, remarked that President Marcos is the first foreign head of state to be received by China in the new year, and making his first official visit to a non-ASEAN country, “fully demonstrates the high importance China and the Philippines attach to bilateral relations.” Marcos is to meet separately with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and Chairman Li Zhanshu of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which will allow “in-depth exchanges of views” on bilateral, regional, and international issues of mutual interest, Wang reported.

After Marcos took office in June 2022, China and the Philippines established an “important common understanding on remaining committed to good-neighborliness and friendship and to jointly pursuing common development,” Wang went on, and China now expects the visit to accelerate the growth of their relationship, and “usher in a new ‘golden age’ in bilateral friendship.”

So much for U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s Nov. 21-22, 2022 visit to Manila, with its clear intention of heading off exactly such “mutual benefit” relations between China and the Philippines.

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