Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has cited the key role played by outgoing Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua in reinvigorating bilateral relations between the Philippines and China, as well as in bringing the leaders of the two countries closer together to further build on these gains.
During his farewell meeting with Ambassador Zhao, Secretary Dominguez said the Chinese diplomat’s “personal efforts” in strengthening bilateral ties between the Philippines and China have paid off well in terms of expanding trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
“It’s really through your efforts that built this relationship between the Philippines and China,” Secretary Dominguez told Ambassador Zhao during the meeting.
Secretary Dominguez noted President Duterte’s “very wise move” to adopt an independent foreign policy, which, he said, has yielded productive results as shown by the achievements made in enhancing relations between the Philippines and its Asian neighbors.
Ambassador Zhao, in turn, thanked Secretary Dominguez and the rest of the Philippine economic team for their “valuable assistance” in “promoting and upgrading our bilateral relationship.”
“I think the economic and trade relationship in (the fields of) investments and infrastructure (cooperation) will continue to be a vital pillar for the steady growth of our bilateral relationship. The Chinese side will continue to take this as top priority in our bilateral relationship,” the Ambassador said.
Just last month, the two countries signed and exchanged six bilateral documents on the feasibility studies for two big-ticket projects under President Duterte’s centerpiece “Build, Build, Build” program and four other agreements covering areas of cooperation in trade, customs and communications.
The six agreements were formalized during the official visit of Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua to the Philippines on Oct. 22-24.
With the warming of bilateral relations between the Philippines and China since the start of the Duterte presidency in 2016, the two countries have so far signed three loan agreements amounting to US$493.08 million.
The Philippines has also secured a total of US$ 430.82 million-worth of grants from China since 2016.
Secretary Dominguez also pointed out at the meeting that it was during Ambassador Zhao’s tour of duty in Manila when President Duterte was invited to visit China five times and met eight times with Chinese President Xi Jinping on several occasions, including a state visit by Mr. Duterte to China in October 2016.
Ambassador Zhao confirmed this, and noted that in three years, “President Duterte is the only leader that President Xi Jinping has met 8 times and five of this in China.”
In November last year, President Xi embarked on a two-day state visit to the Philippines, the first by a Chinese leader in 13 years.
Several high-level Chinese officials, among them Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Vice Premier Hu and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, have also visited the Philippines under the Duterte administration.
During the meeting, Secretary Dominguez also recalled that it was China that first responded to the Philippines’ call for assistance in the aftermath of the siege in Marawi City when Beijing immediately committed to send engineering equipment to the devastated area to aid in the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts.
With several gains made in the “economic and business fields,” Secretary Dominguez told Ambassador Zhao that the next step would be to enhance cultural ties between the two countries.
Secretary Dominguez assured Ambassador Zhao of the economic team’s support for the Chinese envoy’s successor, who is expected to arrive in Manila in December.
“As soon as he arrives, we will have our team meet him right away and brief him,” Secretary Dominguez told Ambassador Zhao.
Ambassador Zhao expressed the hope that with his successor, the two countries would be able “to finish as many projects as possible” and “lay the groundwork for many projects as soon as possible.”
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte earlier conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the Rank of Datu on Ambassador Zhao during his farewell call to the Chief Executive at the Malacañan Palace on October 28, 2019.