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There is a saying in China, “At 40, one will no longer suffer from perplexity”, meaning that when one reaches maturity in age, he will have a broader vision and be more mature. This also applies to China-Philippine relations. 2015 is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Philippine diplomatic relations. China and the Philippines have strengthened cooperation in all aspects and reaped mutually beneficial results over the past 40 years. With regard to this, the journalist from China-ASEAN Panorama interviewed the Philippine Ambassador to China H.E. Erlinda Basilio, who gave us detailed answers on China-Philippine cooperation and some related issues.
China-ASEAN Panorama: This year is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Philippine diplomatic relations. During the past 40 years, China and the Philippines have witnessed remarkable development in bilateral relations. How would the Philippines view the current China-Philippine relations? What celebrations or commemorative activities would be held this year?
H.E. Erlinda Basilio: Over the past 40 years, our two countries have witnessed the dynamic development of bilateral ties, with our people-to-people exchanges and economic and trade cooperation serving as the engines that drive our relations to greater heights.
Despite some challenges that have tested our relations on some occasions, our ties remain solid and two-way exchanges and cooperation continue to grow both in number and significance. They cover the broad range of modern state-to-state cooperation and involve various sectors of our respective societies. As close neighbors, we have become important trading partners. And as stakeholders in peace and development in the region, we have cooperated closely in many regional and international issues of mutual concern.
Since our relations with China is one of our most significant bilateral relationships, we would like to mark this momentous event in our relations with a host of commemorative activities that would honor the deep and enduring friendship that has existed between the Filipino and Chinese people over the past centuries. The Philippine Embassy and our six Consulates General in China will hold a myriad of activities throughout the year for a meaningful celebration of this history of friendship and cooperation, ranging from food festivals and performances of worldrenowned Filipino performing groups to film festivals and sports activities. These events and activities are our way of paying tribute to a friendship that goes back much farther than 40 years of formal diplomatic relations.
I would like to invite the readers of China-ASEAN Panorama Magazine to visit the website Philippines-China@40 at philipine-exhibit.com, which is dedicated to the celebration of 40 years of formal diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China, where you will find a collection of images and videos showcasing the rich and diverse cultures and heritage of the Philippines and China.
China-ASEAN Panorama: According to the Quarterly Report of CAFTA, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines are the top 3 countries among the 10 ASEAN countries that enjoy the most rapid growth in the bilateral trade with China in 2014. In what fields do you think China and the Philippines have cooperation prospects?
H.E. Erlinda Basilio: We are pleased to note the further strengthening of bilateral trade between the Philippines and China. In 2013, growth in bilateral trade was at a double digit figure of 17.49%. This was sustained the following year in 2014, with a 14% annual increase in bilateral trade. This growth in trade has been largely attributed to increased Chinese exports to the Philippines, which was at 21% growth in 2013, and at 15% growth in 2014. This recent trade pattern between our two countries indicates a growing acceptance of Chinese products, for both industrial and consumer products in the Philippines.
We expect Philippine enterprises to further increase their import of Chinese products in the coming years, especially as China fully implements its industrial strategy to upgrade industries in key economic sectors. In the same manner, Philippine enterprises aspire to further increase the export of their products and services to China.
For the past two years between 2013 and 2014, growth of Philippine exports to China has averaged approximately 13%. Meanwhile, the growth rate of imported products from China has been at a faster pace compared to Philippine exports to China. On further prospects to further enhance the economic interdependence of our two countries for the mutual benefit of our enterprises and our consumers, I believe that both our countries stand to benefit more by complementing each other’s economic strengths and filling the needs of each other’s specific sectors.
Recently, Chinese enterprises have been going overseas because they have attained higher quality product standards which allow them to compete internationally with global players. To further enhance global competitiveness, Chinese enterprise may need to provide better customer management services, which happens to be one of the competitive advantages of the Philippines.
The Philippines has already surpassed India in customer management services. We expect our competitive advantage in this sector, which last year generated approximately 18 billion US dollars in annual revenues, to be further strengthened in the years to come because of Philippines’ relatively large supply of young labor force.
Other potential economic prospects for our two countries are in the areas of food supply and medical services to the elderly. In terms of addressing China’s rapidly aging society, the Philippines, with its global expertise in health-care management of hospital records and transcription of patients’ records and eventual entry of Filipino health-care professionals, Philippine medical services providers can be integrated into China’s health-care value chain.
China-ASEAN Panorama: What achievements had been made between China and the Philippines in recent years? What moves would the Philippines make to further promote the bilateral cultural cooperation?
H.E. Erlinda Basilio: It was the Philippines’ honor to be the part of the 2014 ASEAN-China Cultural Exchange Year. I’m glad to note that the cultural and people-to-people ties between the Philippines and China, cultivated over the centuries by contacts, interactions and intermarriages between our peoples, continue to go from strengthen to strength. Our exchanges and cooperation in many areas, such as tourism, education, and people-to-people exchanges continue to be nurtured by our two governments and our peoples.
More and more Chinese people are interested in learning more about the Philippines and in experiencing for themselves the world-renowned hospitality of the Philippine people. We are glad to note that Chinese visitor arrivals to Philippine have been continually increasing, and we hope this trend will continue. We also hope to see even more Chinese people come to Philippine to take advantage of what the Philippines has to offer in terms of education. The Philippines offer one of the most competitive high-quality yet affordable English language education in the Asian region.
The momentum of cultural exchanges between the Philippines and China has increased in the past years, thanks to the celebration of the Years of Friendly Exchanges between our two countries. In the coming years, we would like to continue to forge ties and promote friendship sister-city arrangements. With the geographic proximity of the Philippines to China, as well as our centuries of social-historical ties with southern China, we would like to seek even closer engagement, stronger people-to-people cooperation and tighter economic and social-cultural integration with cities and provinces in this area.
China-ASEAN Panorama: In October, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of constructing the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road when he visited the ASEAN countries. As 2015 is designated as the “Year of China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation”, maritime cooperation has become an important content jointed promoted by China and ASEAN in the new era. What do you think China and the Philippines should do to build the new Maritime Silk Road, carry out maritime cooperation, and develop maritime economy? What would be the opportunities and challenges?
H.E. Erlinda Basilio: The Philippines is an archipelago, with more than a third of our population directly on the sea for their livelihood. We are a maritime nation with a long and rich history and tradition of seafaring.
ASEAN’s program on maritime cooperation is long-standing. In 2010, when ASEAN crafted its own Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, we ensured that maritime connectivity and cooperation are integral elements of this Master Plan.
With the increasingly significant role that our region plays in the growth of the global economy, it is important for all of us to work together to ensure that our seas are safe, secure, environmentally sound and connected to support our stability and our integration as an ASEAN Community by the end of 2015.
We have the annual ASEAN Maritime Forum where important maritime issues such as maritime connectivity and capacity building as well as identifying best practices for cooperation such as in the protection of the marine environment, the promotion of eco-tourism as well as sustainable fisheries management and development are discussed. In fact, in 2012, the Philippines was the host of the third ASEAN Maritime Forum and the first-ever Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum, which included the members of East Asia Summit. I had the honor and privilege to chair both of these meetings as Vice Minister of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
We have long-standing collaboration with third countries on many areas, including on maritime cooperation, and we welcome this cooperation in the context of ASEAN’s blueprint for connectivity.
China-ASEAN Panorama: The CAEXPO is an effective carrier for trade and investment facilitation between China and ASEAN. It has become an optimal platform for China-ASEAN cooperation after years of development. What role do you think the CAEXPO has played in the bilateral high-level visits, trade cooperation, and cultural exchanges? What would the both sides do to further promote cooperation by making use of the CAEXPO?
H.E. Erlinda Basilio: The China-ASEAN Expo, which is in its 12th year, has been a very important venue for Chinese and ASEAN enterprises to meet and explore prospective business ventures within the region. CAEXPO also allows Chinese consumers to gain better awareness of products from countries in Southeast Asia. In my view, awareness of the wide range of products and services available in Southeast Asia and in China is the first step towards enhanced trade and economic cooperation.
China and countries in Southeast Asia should further promote CAEXPO in their respective countries to increase the participation rate at the Expo. The Philippines hopes that the CAEXPO model could be replicated in other regions in China to allow enterprises from Southeast Asia much needed market exposure.
China-ASEAN Panorama: The upgraded version of the CAFTA is the focus of China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation in 2015. What measures would the Philippines take to accelerate the opening up of markets and raise the level of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation?
H.E. Erlinda Basilio: The economic and trade relations between China and ASEAN have entered a new stage of all-round, multi-level development. The upgraded version of the CAFTA has promoted steady growth in Philippine-China bilateral economic and trade cooperation. To accelerate the opening up of markets and raise the level of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, the Philippines will make full use of CAFTA, attract more Chinese enterprises to make investment and enhance cooperation in economy, culture as well as other sectors. We will focus on strengthening people-to-people exchanges, deepen cooperation in such industries as service, tourism and investment, and combine them together.
China-ASEAN Panorama: As European countries like Britain declared to join the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the number of AIIB founding members reached over 50 as of the 15th of April, 2015. The Philippines is one of the first-batch founding members which confirmed their intention to join the AIIB. What significance and functions will the AIIB bring to the Philippines’ construction of infrastructure? How does the Philippines expect to participate in the construction of AIIB?
H.E. Erlinda Basilio: AIIB represents a mutually beneficial new order, which aims at supporting the construction of infrastructure. The founding of AIIB will make up for the Philippines infrastructure funding gap through cooperation between public and private sectors.
In some areas of the Philippines, relatively backward infrastructure has hindered the economic development and the improvement of people’s living standards. If AIIB can provide sufficient financial support to these areas, infrastructure conditions will soon be improved, the development of private economy will be promoted, and job opportunities will be increased, so that investment in various industries including transportation, energy, telecommunications, tourism, agriculture and urban development will be rejuvenated. The founding of AIIB will promote the overall growth of Philippine economy. The Philippines will continue to maintain close communication with member states and carry out sincere cooperation to develop AIIB into a multilateral development bank seeking for unity, cooperation, mutual benefits and common development.

2015-09-06 17:27:42