In line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to build stronger ties with China, Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has invited Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua to the Chinese New Year festivities in Binondo this weekend.
Estrada, a former President, said Zhao confirmed joining the Chinese New Year’s Eve countdown and traditional “Unity Parade” on Friday and Saturday, along with other Chinese embassy officials.
“Of course, it’s a must that we invite the ambassador because he is the highest Chinese government official in the Philippines,” Estrada said.
Amid the still-heated issues on the West Philippine Sea and Duterte’s continuing bid to forge closer links with Beijing, Estrada said China “can help us more.”
“As I have said, we will gain more being close to China than with any other countries. They can help us more,” the mayor said, echoing Duterte’s earlier pronouncements that China has already committed to extend more assistance to the country.
As to the parade in Binondo, Estrada said Zhao even gave him “a Chinese costume” to wear to the event.
Estrada also said he is “very close” to Zhao. He recalled that the ambassador invited him to the 2017 Spring Festival dinner reception at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel last Monday.
In 2014, a year after being elected mayor of Manila, Estrada went to Hong Kong to apologize on behalf of the city government over the bloody Luneta hostage-taking incident on Aug. 23, 2010, where eight Hong Kongite tourists were killed.
Estrada’s visit paved the way for Hong Kong officials’ decision to lift the sanctions they imposed on the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Manila Tourism chief Liz Villaseñor said the New Year’s Eve Countdown today at the Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz will start at 5 p.m. with lion and dragon dances.
It will be followed by performances by the Manila City Repertoire and other cultural performances up to the countdown that will begin at 11:20 p.m., which will be led by Estrada, Zhao and other city and embassy officials.
Estrada will also distribute around 2,000 boxes of “tikoy” or sticky Chinese cakes to the crowd after the countdown, Villaseñor said. The New Year Unity Parade will start by 3 p.m. on Saturday, she added.