Philippines hails China's Belt and Road Initiative
MANILA, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines welcomes China's Belt and Road Initiative policy, an ambitious effort to link Asia, Europe and Africa through the construction of massive infrastructure such as railways and ports, government officials and analysts have said.
Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said on Tuesday that the Belt and Road Initiative would help in advancing the socioeconomic programs of the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
"We welcome all international initiatives that would be consistent with (Duterte's) socio-economic agenda," Rodolfo told a news conference after the 28th Philippines-Chinese Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation.
"Big parts of what we have been discussing here are in terms of how do we align the socio-economic strategies of (the Philippines and China)," Rodolfo said.
Thr "belt" roughly with the historic Silk Road crossing Eurasia, while the "road" refers to the "maritime silk road" -- the sea routes along which Southeast Asia, South Asia, Arabia and Africa traded with ancient China. Over the next 10 years, China aspires to achieve 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars in annual trade with the nations involved in the two areas.
Not wanting to be left out, the Philippines said it intends to hit the road with China in pursuing this economic strategy that is hoped to re-establish the so-called "Silk Road Economic Belt" and "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" which Chinese President Xi Jinping first introduced in the fall of 2013.
The initiatives are part of China's 13th Five-Year Plan, which will run from 2016 to 2020 and guide national investment strategy throughout that period.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reportedly agreed to attend the Belt and Road Summit scheduled in China in May.
A spokesman for the Philippine Department of Finance, Paula Alvarez, has told Xinhua in a written interview that the Philippines looks forward to the May summit, voicing hope that the Philippines and China could identify mutual areas of cooperation to facilitate trade and investment.
The Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to bring back the glory of the ancient Silk Road, hopes to integrate Asia, Africa and Europe through closer diplomatic, commercial and financial cooperation, in an unprecedented effort that will bring together up to 65 countries.
Duterte, who took office in June last year, visited China in October in a bid to rekindle Sino-Philippines diplomatic relations that soured under the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino.
Philippine academics and analysts said that improvement of relations with China has made the Philippines a promising participant in the initiative.
"The important thing is for the Philippines to be part of the international market," political analyst Benito Lim said in a telephone interview.
Lim added that Duterte's decision to attend the May summit is a wise decision. "It's best to find out (what the Belt and Road Initiative is about) and not be left out."
Analyst Victor Corpuz, a retired Army general, told a recent forum that re-establishing close diplomatic ties with China "brings the Philippines a special seat on the gigantic 21st Century Belt and Road Initiative project," adding it could make the Philippines the "eastern hub to circumnavigate the globe through the Pacific."
George Siy of the Integrated Development Studies Institute stressed the importance of the Philippines to be part of the new Silk Road.
"To be part of the plan means to be part of a highway of trade with infrastructure, with harmonized customs, with financing, with technology to allow the infrastructure," he said, adding that the initiative would allow products and services, and investments to flow freely.
Siy added, "Tourism will flow, and people to people relations will grow. Cultures will pollinate and you can adopt the portions you want."