Envoy: PHL seeks to learn, promote economic interests in China-led Belt and Road forum

BEIJING-- Pres. Rodrigo Duterte will promote the Philippines' economic development interests in the high-profile Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation here, the Philippine ambassador to China said.

"The basic goal for the Philippines is how the Belt and Road Initiative can be leveraged or can be used to promote our economic interests, promote our economic development so the approach the Philippines has adopted here is where there are areas in the president's economic priorities that converge with the Belt and Road Initiative," Philippine ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said in a taped interview by RTVM here.

Areas of cooperation among others include infrastructure, foreign trade and investments and people-to-people exchange.

Being the chair of the ASEAN, the Philippines is also interested to seek areas in the ASEAN master plan for connectivity in areas where it aligns with the Belt and Road Initiative.

Sta. Romana cited as example the recent opening of the maritime links between Davao and Bitung in Indonesia through the Roll On-Roll Off, in the same way that the Belt and Road Initiative would link Asia, the Middle East and Europe through economic cooperation.

"This is where we're interested in promoting this connectivity so the Philippines can then expand its market not only to ASEAN and China but other countries that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative. This is the long-range possible benefit," the envoy said.

In coming to the forum, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte keeps an "open mind" to learn more about the Initiative, the envoy added.

Pres. Duterte and his economic managers will get the chance to exchange ideas with their counterparts, explain the administration's economic vision for the Philippines, and see how it can be aligned with the Initiative "on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual benefit".

Sta. Romana emphasized the participation to the BRF is part of the administration's independent foreign policy which Pres. Duterte has been pursuing since he assumed office.

"We view it as part of the Philippines seeking to benefit from friendship with all the major powers whether part of the Belt and Road or outside it and maximizing the benefits for the Filipino people and for our economic development," he said.

Dr. Wang Yizhou, professor and vice chairman of Peking University's China International Relations Association, lauded Pres. Duterte for his participation in the forum, a move to "normalize" strained relations between the Philippines and China.

If the sea dispute is handled well, Wang said the economic and financial cooperation between the two nations "will get both a great benefit."

"Your president is doing a great job to make a new period between Philippines and China... Duterte has a far, long-reaching views for your country's interest and the region," he said in an interview here.

"Your current president is for mutual beneficial policy. The Philippines will be a very important access not only for ASEAN-China relations but in global role," he added.

Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping's flagship "One Belt, One Road" Initiative will launch a series of infrastructure projects across three continents, linking Asian markets with economic circles in Europe and Africa.

The Philippines' participation in the initiative complements the administration's massive trillion-peso infrastructure program dubbed as "Build, Build, Build" that would usher in the country's "golden age of infrastructure" in the next five years.

Source: Philippines News Agency