China-Philippines Ties See Transformation and Upgrading Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

By Huang Xilian*

21 July 2020

Highlights

When #COVID-19 vaccine is developed and put into use, #China will give priority to providing it to the #Philippines as a global public good.

As the resumption of work and production proceeds in an orderly manner, there will be more #Chinese cooperative projects in the #Philippines in the future, which will provide strong impetus to the local economic recovery and improvement of people’s livelihood in the Philippines.

The year 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Philippines. The year also witnessed the profound friendship between our two countries in our common battle against the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world.

In the fight against the pandemic, China and the Philippines have forged closer partnership through anti-COVID-19 cooperation, setting a good example for international cooperation.

At present, both countries are making every effort to accelerate the work resumption and help the public resume their lives back to normal.

At the same time, we are continuing to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, and steadily carry out major cooperation projects in infrastructure construction to further consolidate and upgrade China-Philippines relations.

Ensure a smooth flow of essential business people and goods

As the most serious global crisis since the WWII, the pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the economic development of countries including China and the Philippines from both ends of demand and supply with people travelling restricted, global production and supply chain disrupted.

Faced with the severe challenges brought about by the pandemic, China curbed the spread of virus rapidly and took the lead in driving to the resumption of business and production. At the same time, China takes the BRI as the most important platform to strengthen dialogue and  cooperation with the Philippines and other countries along the route. China and the Philippines have been negotiating on the establishment of the “fast track” for two-way essential travel and a “green channel” for   smooth flow of goods to ensure the stability of the industrial and supply chains.

Thanks to the joint efforts of China and the Philippines, the BRI has given full play in terms of creating vitality and opportunities to bilateral economic and trade exchanges.

According to the Chinese statistics, bilateral trade reached $19.37 billion dollars in the first five months of this year, and China remains the largest trading partner of the Philippines. China’s direct investment in the Philippines reached $18.25 million, up 82.5 percent year-on-year.

Deepen health cooperation for public health and safety

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, China, the Philippines and other BRI partners have accelerated their cooperation in the field of public health, and are committed to building a “Health Silk Road” and a community of common health for mankind.

Since the outbreak, the Philippines has provided valuable support to China and China is also working through various channels to fully support the Philippines’ resistance to the virus, including the timely dispatch of experienced medical experts to Philippines and providing medical materials to the country.

Up to now, the Chinese government has provided the Philippines with a total of 252,000 testing reagents, 130 ventilators, 1.87 million medical masks, protective suits, goggles and other epidemic prevention materials.

A large number of Chinese local governments, enterprises and civil groups donated tens of millions sets of PPEs and other medical supplies to different local governments, hospitals of the Philippines.

When the COVID-19 vaccine is developed and put into use, China will give priority to providing it to the Philippines, as a global public good.

Promote connectivity for economic and social recovery

Under the guidance of the memorandum of understanding on jointly promoting the BRI, China has strengthened coordination between the BRI and the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, through which we have coordinated epidemic prevention and control, resumed work and production, and promoted the construction of key cooperation projects in the Philippines in an orderly manner, helping stabilize the local economy, ensuring employment and improving people’s livelihood in the country.

Steady progress has been made in key projects of Chinese assistance, such as the two bridges over the Pasig river in Manila and the Philippine National Railways South Long-Haul Project.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ third telecommunication carrier the DITO in which Chinese telecommunications companies have participated, and has now come to the stage of full construction.

In the first five months of this year, newly signed contracts for Chinese projects in the Philippines amounted to $3.11 billion, up 29.5 percent year-on-year, and completed turnover of $970 million, up 13.2 percent year-on-year.

As the resumption of work and production proceeds in an orderly manner, there will be more Chinese financed projects in the Philippines, which will inject strong impetus to the local economic recovery and improvement of people’s livelihood.

Expand cooperation for sustainable growth

During the pandemic, new industries and business modes have emerged, creating new lifestyles such as working-from-home, telecommuting and e-commerce etc.

Companies from China and the Philippines have made active use of the “Silk Road e-commerce” platform to give full play to the advantages of cross-border e-commerce and work hard to cope with the challenges brought by the pandemic to cross-border trade and investment.

As regular epidemic prevention and control worldwide has become the new norm, China will actively explore with the Philippines to strengthen  cooperation in e-commerce, 5G, big data, AI and cloud computing. By building a “Digital Silk Road” and a “Green Silk Road”, we can not only promote the economic recovery on the basis of transformation and upgrading, but also achieve a high-quality sustainable development, benefiting our two peoples.

*The author is currently the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines. Thus far, he worked with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for 30 years. He also served as China’s Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Read more.

This article is published courtesy of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines. Photo Credit: Chinese Embassy in the Philippines.

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