Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has highlighted the need to boost the country’s relations with China, saying it is a priority considering the geographic proximity of the two countries.
In her opening message to the First Manila Forum of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding (APCU) co-sponsored with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Manila, Mrs. Arroyo, APCU Chairperson Emeritus, said that as the Philippines and China are next-door neighbors, keeping good relations is “always a priority.”
“The relationship between the Philippines and China is priority for our country. One major reason is geography – the Philippines and China are located within each other’s backyard, so to speak, so good relations between neighbors is always a priority,” she said.
APCU, a pioneer NGO in the country in promoting people-to-people diplomacy between the Philippines and China, held the first Manila Forum Wednesday via Zoom with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank President Jin Liqun, who talked about China’s commitment to help countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Manila Forum was held to broaden and deepen practical cooperation between the Philippines and China to jointly achieve an early revival of the economy from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The former president said the good relations between the Philippines and China is manifested by the recent donation of COVID-19 vaccines by China to the Philippines.
Arroyo said the donation was conveyed during a meeting she attended last January, in which State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China told President Rodrigo Duterte of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to donate vaccines to the Philippines.
“As the Philippines rolls out a national inoculation campaign with its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine doses from a shipment donated by China, we are taking a moment to hold this first Manila Forum, which was launched last January 16th, attended jointly then by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and myself,” she said.
“State Councilor Wang was in Manila at that time and delivered the message to President Duterte from President Xi Jinping that China had decided to donate a batch of vaccines to the Philippines, and here we are today, with the commitment fulfilled,” Arroyo said.
She added: “Indeed, the high regard that China extends to the Philippines was manifested again this January by the physical presence of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in our midst, despite the ongoing pandemic.”
The former President also noted four other reasons why the Philippines’ relations with China is a priority.
She cited China’s increasing involvement in collective dealings through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Philippines’ vibrant and well-integrated Filipino-Chinese community, China’s unprecedented record in infrastructure development, and China’s economy as the most dynamic and fastest growing among major nations.
She said with China on the verge of becoming the world’s largest economy, the Philippines and its Asian neighbors can expect beneficial spillover effects.
“Now last October, a key session of the Communist Party of China drew a 15-year roadmap for China’s modernization, and at the World Economic Forum last January, President Xi said that China is on course to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and that China will work with other countries to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world,” she said.