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The Philippine pivot: Duterte readies huge business delegation for Beijing visit

by admin   |   Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a meeting with banana production businessmen in Davao city, in southern Philippines, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr/File Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a meeting with banana production businessmen in Davao city, in southern Philippines, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr/File Photo

 

About 250 Philippine business executives will visit Beijing with President Rodrigo Duterte next week as he puts aside years of hostility to seek a new partnership with China at a time when tensions between Manila and its traditional ally, the United States, are mounting.

There has been no announcement about the delegation, but business groups and government officials said registration to join Duterte on his Oct. 19-21 visit had been oversubscribed. Filipino executives are eager to talk with Chinese business leaders and government officials about deals in a range of sectors, from rail, and construction to tourism, agribusiness, power and manufacturing, the sources said.

Initially only about two dozen Philippine entrepreneurs were to accompany Duterte but the number had ballooned to about 250, Trade Undersecretary Nora Terrado told Reuters. “I understand there are 100 more wanting to go,” Terrado said, adding the size of the delegation was unusual because the two sides agreed on the visit only about one month ago.

The trip could signal a transformation in a relationship dogged in recent years by mistrust over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea, and could upset strategic alliances in a region growing wary of China’s influence and military might and where the United States has a strong presence.

An arbitration court ruling in the Hague on July 12 that said China had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the South China Sea had threatened to lead to a further deterioration in ties between Manila and Beijing.

But Duterte, who took office on June 30 after winning an election in May, has instead aggressively courted China and said he wants to reduce the nation’s dependence on the United States. He has said he will hold talks with China on the South China Sea dispute.

His promises to engage with China have in large part come in a near-daily barrage of hostility against Washington, raising questions about whether his overtures carried weight, or were simply aimed at boosting his profile at home by espousing a “pro-Filipino” foreign policy.

CLOUDS “FADING AWAY”

In recent days there have been clear signs of improving business ties. On Saturday, Philippines Finance Minister Carlos Dominguez said in an interview in Washington that Duterte would seek billions of dollars in infrastructure investments from China in coming months. And Philippine Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said on Sunday that China would lift a ban on fruit exports by 27 Philippine firms as a “gift” to Duterte.

And the size of the delegation going to China and early comments from senior government officials in Manila signal a new and potentially much deeper economic relationship with Beijing than there has ever been before.

“We do have a very popular president and the president decided that he wanted to have a better relationship with China,” said Francis Chua, chairman emeritus of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We are neighbours… this is actually what the president is thinking: instead of fighting, why don’t we just become friends?”

Officially, Beijing has yet to confirm Duterte’s visit, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing on Tuesday that both sides were in close contact and it hoped Duterte would visit at an early date. He said both sides had the desire to improve relations and China was willing to increase cooperation in all aspects.

Beijing’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, has been more lyrical in welcoming the transformation. “The clouds are fading away. The sun is rising over the horizon, and will shine beautifully on the new chapter of bilateral relations,” he said at a Chinese National Day reception in Manila last month.

Discussions between officials of the two governments would be held on the first day of the visit and on day two about 600 representatives of private firms from both countries would be addressed by Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, several sources said, citing a tentative program.

While no concrete deals have yet been finalised, several Filipino businessmen said exploratory talks would be held on cooperating in a range of sectors including industry, finance and low-cost manufacturing.

“We have members who are looking for some tie-up with their like in power, agriculture, financing facilities and joint ventures,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation. “They (China) might be offering certain packages, grants on the table.”

Trade Minister Ramon Lopez told Reuters on Monday that Chinese manufacturers could benefit from low manufacturing wages in the Philippines, which could vie with Vietnam for some investments.

EARLY SIGNALS

Some Chinese companies have already indicated interest in new projects in the Philippines.

China’s CRRC-Dalian Co., Ltd, a unit of China’s CRRC Corp, said in a statement on Monday it had “solid intent” to modernize the antiquated railway system in the Philippines.

And while there has been no firm talk of defense deals, Duterte said last month the United States had refused to sell some weapons to his country but he didn’t care because Russia and China were willing suppliers.

U.S. officials said they were doing their best to ignore Duterte’s hostile rhetoric and taking comfort in the fact that he had yet to translate his words into less military cooperation.

A closer Philippines-China relationship, analysts say, could jeopardize regional efforts to forge a unified position on how to handle China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

By engaging with China, Duterte could improve his chances of tackling urgent issues at home, such as weak infrastructure, unemployment and energy security as domestic natural gas reserves run out.

There are oil and gas reserves off Palawan island and at the Reed Bank in the South China Sea but the Philippines lacks the expertise to exploit them. State-run Philex Petroleum has not ruled out resuming stalled joint surveys with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) at the Reed Bank.

Undersecretary Terrado, who heads the trade ministry’s industrial promotions department, said it would be businesses setting the agenda themselves next week, free of government intervention.

“We are allowing market forces to just get it on,” said Terrado. — Reuters

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Recto Bank collision an ‘accident’, not armed attack – Lorenzana

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana maintained that the incident in Recto Bank involving the Chinese vessel, Yuemaobinyu 42212 and the Filipino fishing vessel, F/B GEM-VER 1 on June 9 was not an armed attack but only an accident.

“I think it’s just an accident based on the information we got from some of the crew. Siguro hindi rin sinasadya ng kabila (Perhaps it was not intentional),” Lorenzana said.

Since it was such, Lorenzana said he agrees with Malacañang that the Philippines cannot insist its mutual defense treaty with the United States to deal with the present issue because such treaty applies only to armed conflicts.

Lorenzana was the first to disclose the report on a Chinese vessel hitting and sinking a Filipino fishing vessel in the contested area in the West Philippine Sea.

The Defense Chief condemned the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the 22 Filipino fishermen adrift at sea while struggling to survive.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through Secretary Teddy Locsin, has already elevated the matter to the International Maritime Office (IMO).

But though Lorenzana supported Locsin for that matter, the Defense Secretary said the Philippine government can only act once all the needed information is gathered specifically China’s official statement on the incident.

For now, the government is pursuing a case against the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the Filipino fishermen which, the Secretary said, is a violation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which the Philippines and China are both signatories.

While waiting for China’s side on the matter, Secretary Lorenzana appeals to the public to be patient as the government works on resolving the issue while extending assistance to the affected fishermen.

“I ask our countrymen to be patient dahil lalabas naman talaga ang totoo kapag nakuha na natin ang lahat ng (the truth will come out once we have all) information so that we can move on from this,” he said. (with details from April Cenedoza)

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New PH law requires free internet, clean restrooms in terminals

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Transport terminals in the country are now required to have clean sanitary facilities and free internet services for passengers after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Republic Act 11311.

Duterte signed the law on April 17, a copy of which was released by Malacañang on Wednesday.

The law mandates the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), in coordination with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and other concerned stakeholders, to ensure that free internet services are provided in land transportation stations and roll-on/roll-off (RORO) terminals.

Terminal owners, operators or administrators are also ordered to have separate restrooms for persons with disabilities, male and female passengers, as well as lactation station for breastfeeding mothers.

The law also states that collecting fees from passengers for the use of regular sanitary facilities is unlawful. A passenger must also show the paid bus ticket for the day in order to avail of the free use of sanitary facilities.

The measure, however, does not cover well-appointed or deluxe sanitary facilities that are operated solely for commercial purposes and for the convenience of passengers who require and prefer such terminal facilities.

Terminal operators and administrators who fail to comply with the law shall be fined with P5,000 for each day of violation; another P5,000 each day for collecting fees from passengers for the use of sanitary facilities.

Another P5,000 fine each day will also be imposed if operators fail to provide and maintain a lactation station in transport terminals.

The fines will be subject for review every five years by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). Any necessary adjustments on the amount will be subject to the approval of the DOTr Secretary.

The measure mandates the DOTr, in coordination with the DICT, LTFRB, Department of Health, the Philippine Ports Authority and other stakeholders, to release the implementing rules and regulations within 60 days that the law has become effective.

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Death toll rises to 12 in southwest China earthquake

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Courtesy: China Central Television (CCTV)

Twelve people died and another 125 were injured as of 08:30 Tuesday after two earthquakes hit southwest China’s Sichuan Province on Monday night, according to China’s Ministry of Emergency Management.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Changning County of Sichuan’s Yibin City at 22:55 Monday and another 5.1-magnitude earthquake occurred in Yibin’s Gong County at 23:36 Monday, according to local authorities. Ten villages and towns have been severely affected by the earthquakes.

“The earthquakes also damaged some houses, roads, power and communication facilities,” said Secretary General of the Yibin government Li Tinggen at a Tuesday press conference.

Li said Yibin has started an emergency response and 2,016 rescuers have been dispatched to alleviate the disaster.

“The city and counties quickly allocated all kinds of relief supplies from their disaster relief material repositories to affected villages and towns. At the initial stage, 450 tents, 5,300 quilts and 1,500 folding beds have been sent to affected areas,” Li said.

Yibin has started evacuation and relocation of local people and carried out medical aid for injured ones, Li said.

“After the earthquakes, the city and counties quickly dispatched 15 vehicles and 61 medical specialists with first aid equipment to the quake-stricken areas in order to treat the wounded.

All health centers of villages and towns in the epicenters conducted medical treatment for injured ones immediately after preliminary safety check of their buildings,” Li said. (REUTERS)

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