Friends with China
Cebu reaps benefits
IN the last four years, Rio Calle has been working as a business development officer for an offset and digital printing company — an industry which uses imported paper and other materials from China.
It would take around three months for Philippine-based suppliers to deliver supplies to them as more time was needed for the materials to arrive from their principal source in China.
But things changed in the first quarter of 2017 as the three-month delivery time has been reduced to two to three weeks.
The faster delivery has given Calle’s company a better opportunity to serve more clients and fulfill their obligations on time, if not, earlier than scheduled.
Calle says they have President Rodrigo Duterte to thank.
“It all happened after President Duterte visited China and announced a strengthened relationship with our Asian neighbor. For the printing industry, this is a welcome development,” said Calle.
At the People’s Republic of China consular office in Cebu, Consul General Shi Yong expects more positive developments in the fields of investments and tourism with China-Philippine relations gaining an upward momentum.
Shi, who took on the leadership of the Cebu consulate in 2016, said the two countries are deepening mutual political trust and are conducting practical cooperation across the board.
Shi says that the resumption of the dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues is “delivering tangible benefits to the people of both countries and facilitating regional peace and stability.”
Before his assignment in Cebu, Shi was a counselor at the Protocol Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We have been visiting local government units in the Visayas and Mindanao for exchange of ideas on how to best promote China and the Philippines as tourist and economic destinations,” Shi said.
With a more open relationship between the two countries, tourism and investments from China have poured into Visayas and Mindanao, added Shi.
Two delegations visited Cebu this year.
Last March, Fujian province held the “Fujian Week” to introduce Fujian to Cebu and promote economic cooperation between the small and medium enterprises of the two provinces.
Just last month, the cities of Cebu and Chengdu — represented by its mayors Tomas Osmeña and Luo Qiang — signed a sister-city agreement strengthening economic and trade relations between the two cities.
“It shows clearly the sincerity and determination of the Chinese people to further develop cooperation with Cebu and the Philippines,” he said.
The new developments run contrast to the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China concerning ownership of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which prompted the Philippines to file an arbitration case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2013.
China’s capital Beijing said it will reject any ruling by an international tribunal.
On July 12, 2016, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines in the historic case filed against China.
In October 2016, President Duterte visited China and met with President Xi Jinping.
Consul General Shi described the trip as “successful” as it “turned back the normal track of good neighborliness and friendship” between the two nations.
Discussions on the maritime dispute have not ended; but Duterte has taken on a friendly approach on the matter.
“I have seen an upward momentum in the development of China-Philippines relations,” said Shi.
A consensus has been reached involving bilateral resolutions and the Chinese Consulate in Cebu’s role is to implement solid and practical work in relation to these agreements.
“The Chinese Consulate in Cebu would like to work with the local governments and relative parties to promote mutually beneficial cooperation and people to people exchanges,” Shi said.
In tourism, China ranks as the third largest source of foreign tourist arrivals in Central Visayas next to Korea (842,985) and Japan (369,860).
The Department of Tourism recorded total Chinese arrivals at 244,925 in 2016 or a growth of 90.81 percent from 128,358 arrivals in 2015.
Aside from Korea, Japan and China, the other top five foreign tourist arrivals in 2016 were USA (201,222) and Australia (63,627).
As of May 2017, GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation recorded 18 international destinations flying out of the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
China joined Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates (via Dubai) in this list of international destinations.
There are 21 international and domestic airline carriers that serve direct flights from these destinations to Cebu. Two of these airlines are Xiamen Air (Xiamen, Fuzhou and Quanzhou) and China Eastern Airlines (Chengdu and Guangzhou). More Chinese airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Air China, are expected to fly direct to Cebu within the year.
“To the end of this year, we will have direct flights from nearly 10 Chinese cities, including some of the biggest cities in China such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu,” Shi said.
The islands of Bohol and Cebu, described by Shi as “luminous pearls of the Philippines” with warm people, beautiful scenery, coral atolls and rich fishing grounds, are bound to attract more tourists as traveling to these two destinations has become convenient with more operational direct flights available.
As the Philippines hosts the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and joins the year of China-ASEAN tourism cooperation, Shi said the Philippines has the opportunity to upgrade tourism cooperation with China.
“China stands ready to reinforce cooperation with the Philippines to ensure the success of the tourism cooperation so as to forge a new pillar for the people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and breathe new life into China-ASEAN and China-Philippines cooperation,” he said.
Following enhanced relations between the Philippines and China, tourism is just one of the sectors that will enjoy an economic boost.
Shi said they have rolled out cultural and educational exchanges to strengthen China’s image in the Philippines.
The recent one involved a visit by Philippine journalists to China to promote mutual understanding between the two countries,The visit, Shi said, was not meant to teach Philippine journalists about China’s media practices but was more of knowledge-sharing.
“There were twists and turns in China-Philippines relations in the past few years due to obvious reasons. The (Philippine) journalists rarely had the chance to visit China and get the first-hand experience of China’s development. That’s why we invited some journalists to visit China… to record the development of Chinese economy and society,” Shi said.
In the coming months, Shi said enhanced bilateral exchanges in the fields of education and culture will happen with more friendly exchanges between the two countries through local government and non-government cooperation.
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Glenn Anthony Soco said they can feel the “interest of Chinese investors” as evidenced by the recent Bank of China roadshow that chamber members have participated in.
“We had several companies which were shortlisted and they will go into a round of cross-border matching,” he told Cebu Daily News at the sidelines of MCCI’s General Membership Meeting last week.
Soco expressed optimism that the entry of China in the Cebu market will bring about heightened economic growth.
In 2016, Central Visayas has grown at 8.8%, higher than the national growth of 6.3 percent.
While excited about the positive impact of China’s trade cooperation with the Philippines, Soco said there is also a need to balance the entry of Chinese investors in Philippine business to protect local enterprises and national interest.
“There needs to be a balance…to determine the right kind of business and infrastructure projects that we become part of,” he said.
Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur and MCCI past president Philip N. Tan hopes this friendly relation continues.
“We have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. China has been part of us, directly or indirectly for centuries,” said Tan.
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