A Chinese official on Thursday said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is scheduled to visit the Philippines in November, the first of this kind by a Chinese Premier in 10 years.
In his speech during the China-Philippines Dialogue 2017, Chinese embassy counsellor Ethan Yi Sun said that the visit is separate from his attendance to the upcoming Association of the Southeast Asian Nation Summit in November which the Philippines is hosting as this year’s chairman.
“They are different,” Sun said, adding that there is no final schedule whether or not Li will attend the Asean.
“I think we have to still wait for the official announcement from our Foreign Ministry,” Sun said in an interview.
Normally, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson will make official announcement about Li’s final schedule a week before the latter’s departure.
“I don’t have official announcement now. I hope it’s going to be soon,” Sun said.
“But I think it’s in the middle [of November]. I think Premier Li will be here for the summit [but not final announcement yet]. I think probably at the beginning of November there will be an official announcement,” he added.
During his official visit, Li will have a bilateral meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, the Senate President Koko Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Sun said in his speech the previous state visit of Duterte last October, is a sign of a new era between China and the Philippines relation.
“Our two countries are enjoying growing political mutual trust and frequent exchange of high-level visits,” Sun said.
“In just short span of past one year, the China-Philippines cooperation in various fields has reaped rich fruits,” Sun said.
Sun said, China is now the country’s largest trading partner, largest import market and fourth largest export destination.
Based on China’s statistics, its bilateral trade volume with the Philippines hit $28 billion in the first seven months this year, representing a 7.6 percent year-on-year increase.
China’s FDI to the Philippines in the first seven months of 2017 registered $20 million.
“And I am pretty sure that more will come in the following years,” Sun said.
He added that there are pending infrastructure projects with the Philippines, aimed at synergizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” strategy.
Sun said China is committed to give grants to build bridges over the Pasig River, to help relieve the horrible traffic in Manila.
China will also provide concessional loans for the Philippines’ three priority infrastructure projects, namely the new water resource Kaliwa dam; Chico River pump irrigation project and the South line of the North-South railway.
Sun said China will also finance feasibility studies for the construction of Davao City expressway and a bridge linking Panay, Guimaras and Negros.
“Besides the aforesaid projects, both side are already trying to identify the second basket of infrastructure projects which could be built in the following years,” he said.
“We are also working on the possibility of setting up industrial parks in the Philippines in the foreseeable future,” Sun added.
The relationship between the Philippines and China was rekindled after Duterte decided to shift its foreign alliance to China and Russia, while turning his back on the country’s longtime ally, the United States.
Dutere had said that he would set aside the arbitral ruling which had favored the Philippines against China’s excessive claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea, to seek friendlier ties with Beijing.
“As a Filipino saying goes, ‘Tunay na kaibigan ay nahayag sa panahon ng pangangailangan.’ Believe me, China would always be such a friend in need,” Sun assured.