by Dario Agnote, Dong Chengwen
MANILA, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- Under the guidance of Chinese and Philippine leaders, the development of bilateral relations has yielded substantial results in the past year with pragmatic cooperation in all fields.
WARM POLITICAL RELATIONS, WARM ECONOMIC TIES
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in the Philippines on Sunday for an official visit and a series of leaders' meetings on East Asian cooperation. This is the first visit to the Philippines by a Chinese premier in 10 years.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Philippines in 1975, the two countries have experienced ups and downs in the development of bilateral ties.
Since the complete turnaround in bilateral ties during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China in October 2016, the two sides have developed closer high-level exchanges, strengthened political mutual trust and advanced practical cooperation on all fronts with fruitful results.
In May this year, Duterte visited China again to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
The two countries have also witnessed closer exchanges between the ministers from both sides. The exchange of visits and communications between the ruling parties of the two counties have further boosted their mutual understanding and cooperation.
Bilateral consultations on foreign affairs, consular affairs, defense, trade, agriculture and fisheries, among others, have been fully resumed. The two countries have also established a new maritime cooperation mechanism.
Aileen Baviera, professor of Asian Studies, the University of the Philippines, told Xinhua that China and the Philippines have realized the normalization of bilateral relations in a period of short time after experiencing years of tension, and the current warm political relations between the two countries have laid a solid foundation for economic cooperation.
Over the past year, Sino-Philippine relations were characterized as "warm political relations, warm economic ties."
In the first seven months of this year, bilateral trade reached 27.86 billion U.S. dollars, up 7.6 percent compared to the previous year, according to statistics.
China is currently the Philippines' largest trading partner and the largest import market.
China has been stepping up its investment in the Philippines. In 2016, the direct investment totalled 35 million U.S. dollars, up 47 percent year-on-year. In the first seven months of this year, China's direct investment in the Philippines already reached 20 million U.S. dollars.
The Chinese Embassy to the Philippines said in the coming years, the figures in this regard are set to rise sharply.
SINCERE PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CONTACTS, GENUINE CULTURAL EXCHANGES
The key to sound relations between states lies in amity between the peoples. Close people-to-people exchanges between China and the Philippines have been witnessed in the past year.
More direct air routes to the Philippines have been launched, resulting in great increase in Chinese tourists. In the first seven months of this year, Chinese tourist arrivals topped 450,000, an increase of 33.44 percent from a year ago.
In August, the Philippines began to issue landing visas to Chinese nationals who wish to join tour groups and business people. The Philippine tourism authorities forecast that 1 million Chinese tourists will travel to the country.
In the next few years, China is expected to become the largest source of tourists to the Philippines.
Liya Wu, general manager of Empire Int'l Travel and Tours, said that since issuing landing visas to Chinese tourists and business people, especially in the recent two months, there has been an obvious increase in the Chinese tourist arrivals in the country.
With rich tourism resources in the Philippines, he believed that the country is bound to become a hot destination for Chinese travellers to Southeast Asia.
Sino-Philippine friendship has also been cemented by mutual support in fighting natural disasters. In February, the Philippines suffered a 6.7-magnitude earthquake, and China immediately offered humanitarian assistance.
In June, China's Sichuan Province was hit by a superstrong landslide, the Philippines also offered aid to assist the victims.
Since the military conflict broke out in the Philippine city of Marawi in May, China has offered weapons, ammunition and humanitarian assistance to support the Philippine's anti-terrorism struggle, and engineering equipment to help the city to rebuild after the war.
HIGHLY COMPATIBLE PROJECTS, BRIGHT COOPERATION PROSPECTS
As the Sino-Philippine relations enter a new era, huge potential for future cooperation can be seen.
Since taking office, Duterte proposed the 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda and "Build, Build, Build" program. During an interview with Xinhua, Duterte said the Philippine government's infrastructure construction plan is highly compatible with China's Belt and Road Initiative, thus enjoying bright cooperation prospects.
Currently, China and the Philippines have inked several infrastructure construction cooperation projects, including an irrigation project, a dam project, and a railway project. The second batch of infrastructure construction projects are also under negotiation.
Looking to the future, Rep. Arthur Yap, chairman of the House of Economic Affairs Committee of the Philippine House of Representatives, believes that as close neighbors and brothers, the Philippines and China should continue cooperation and development, so as to benefit both people and push bilateral ties to move forward.