Commentary: Historic opportunity to bolster China-Philippines ties

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-20 17:52:06|Editor: mym
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BEIJING, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Relations between China and the Philippines, as Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a signed article published Monday, "have now seen a rainbow after the rain."

With Xi arriving in Manila on Tuesday for the first state visit to the Southeast Asian country by a Chinese president in 13 years, the two nations have a historic opportunity to steer ties towards an even brighter future.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, the two Asian neighbors have managed to ride out a rough patch in their relationship over the South China Sea issue by returning to dialogue and maintaining cooperation.

Most notably, thanks to the strategic guidance by their leaders, the two countries have both embarked on a path of consultation rather than confrontation.

Together with the productive efforts of other countries involved in the South China Sea issue, there's been a calm in the crucial body of water as well as the broader region, a boon to the entire world no doubt.

Meanwhile, since communication and contact resumed, mutual understanding and political trust have been gradually restored, and practical cooperation and people-to-people exchanges have picked up steam.

Xi and Duterte have met multiple times, and various dialogue and consultation mechanisms have been revived. The two countries have set up a platform for bilateral consultation on the South China Sea and successfully convened three meetings.

Economic relations are solid. Bilateral trade topped 50 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, making China the Philippines' largest trading partner and source of imports. Also last year, newly added Chinese investment in the Philippines jumped 67 percent to 53.84 million dollars.

The tourism sector is also revving up. China has now become the Philippines' second biggest source of tourists, with more than 1.5 million Chinese expected to visit the country this year and bring about 610 million dollars in revenues.

Given this progress, and considering their geographical approximation, and historical and cultural bonds, relations show great potential on a variety of fronts.

For starters, with China endeavoring to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation and the Philippines striving to implement the 10-point Socioeconomic Agenda and the "Build, Build, Build" Strategy, the two countries can better synergize their development plans and help each other fulfill their aspirations.

Particularly, the Philippines is a natural partner within the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to improve connectivity and boost common development along and beyond the ancient overland and maritime Silk Road trade routes. Together, the two can join hands to renew the legacy.

Now Xi's state visit provides a great opportunity for the two sides to explore those possibilities and turn them into reality. With both sides committed to making a success of this latest round of top-level diplomacy, confidence abounds for a new chapter in bilateral relations.

The restoration of China-Philippines relations bears a significance that transcends the two countries, and not only in the tangible benefits for the broader region brought by stronger relations.

The trajectory of their relationship illustrates that China and the Philippines have the wisdom, courage and ability to properly handle their disputes and keep specific problems from jeopardizing overall relations. It is something that offers a valuable lesson for all.