The importance of strengthening the China-Philippines relationship

PHOTO CAPTION: China President Xi Jinping during the state dinner in Malacañang last Nov. 20.

Since joining the ASEAN Business Advisory Council as chairman of the Philippines two years ago, I’ve come to realize that being part of an international community demands building good relationships and fostering stronger trust. Before any good starts to happen, relationships must first be built.

This week, we welcomed China President Xi Jinping to the Philippines – a first visit of a China president in 13 years.

Ever since he was elected, President Duterte has taken a different approach with regards to our relationship with our Southeast Asian neighbor. This has led to many issues and arguments which concern our claims over islands and reefs. I think President Duterte did the right thing in fixing our relationship with China in a more diplomatic manner. In a statement last Monday, President Xi even said, “Our relations have now seen a rainbow after a rain.”

Last Tuesday, I was invited to be part of the state dinner to welcome President Xi to the Philippines. President Duterte introduced him as his “good friend,” and added that in the past two years, the Philippines has “resumed bilateral dialogue with China and deepened our relationship through positive engagement.”

President Duterte also expressed hope that the relationship will continue to flourish in the years to come: “I am hopeful that through our cooperation, opportunities for greater collaboration will further promote the prosperity and success of our nations, and contribute to lasting peace and stability in the region.”

During his speech, President Xi expressed his gratitude to President Duterte for the warm welcome accorded to him and his delegation. He shared that he laid a wreath at the monument of Dr. Jose Rizal, whose ancestry can be traced back to China. He also thanked President Duterte for the improved relations and the positive approach.

President Xi also said, “Earlier today, the President and I agreed to elevate the relationship to one of comprehensive, strategic cooperation. This decision, which will mark a new milestone in our relations speaks of our shared determination to be good friends and good neighbors. We are truly pleased with this decision.”

I had the rare chance to greet him and shake his hand after the dinner. I felt that he was approachable as he had a friendly demeanor towards the guests.

Our relationship with China  – to put it mildly–  has been contentious. But I’ve always believed in diplomacy. Because of China’s size and military power, war is not an option. This is why the ASEAN must find a solution that will foster amicable relations and bring about a stronger ASEAN with China seen as an ally and friend. Keeping a good relationship with China is a must to keep our future vibrant.

As a key player in the region, China can help boost Philippine tourism and economy, and can create many entrepreneurs. While we build strong relationships with China, we should not overlook our relationship with the US. The US has been and should continue to be a strong ally of the Philippines. They have consistently helped the country in times of our need. This relationship has also brought in a lot of business opportunities and investments the past years.

We must strive to maintain good relations built on trust with both powerful nations as this will ensure greater prosperity for our country.

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Last Saturday, the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia, led by Ambassador Lee Hiong Wee and his wife, Go Negosyo trustee and long-time advocate, Rosalind Wee, hosted a gathering of the Filipino community for the Mentor Me Launch of Go Negosyo in Jakarta, Indonesia. The objective of the event was to inculcate the values of an entrepreneurial mindset and promote awareness and business opportunities through the Go Negosyo advocacy.

This spells exciting times as the objective of Go Negosyo has never been to simply contain its influence within the country. We think local, but act global. We are here to help every Filipino, in every part of the world.

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We would also like to congratulate another Go Negosyo trustee, Alice Eduardo of Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corp., for being one of the Filipinos included in the Forbes Asia list of Heroes of Philanthropy. Thanks to her efforts, she has helped build an isolation ward in the Philippine General Hospital, the biggest government hospital in the country. She has also built a nearby dormitory for the patients’ families. Aside from these, she has always been active in supporting the Go Negosyo advocacy, even mentoring some micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs. She even helped one micro entrepreneur who had attended our Filipina summit back in 2014. Today, that micro entrepreneur is now earning through her sustained enterprise in Tacloban. Alice is indeed worthy to be called a hero of philanthropy. Congratulations, Alice!