Philippine ministers in China to boost trade

Cabinet-level delegation to discuss investment deals and Philippines' Asean chairmanship

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is sending a Cabinet-level delegation to Beijing to meet China's Vice-Premier Wang Yang and other top Chinese officials to discuss investment deals and his country's chairmanship of Asean this year.

The two-day trip, beginning today, includes Mr Duterte's finance, budget, economic, public works and transport secretaries, according to a statement from the Department of Finance.

The visit takes place three months after Mr Duterte visited Beijing to pave the way for what he called a new commercial alliance. He has increased his overtures to China since assuming office last year, while berating traditional ally the United States, a sharp change in Philippine foreign policy.

The Beijing mission to court China and tap loans and business follows Mr Duterte's "pro-Filipino" policy, aimed at reducing the reliance on a US that he says he has lost faith in.

Mr Duterte will make a second visit to China in May for a bilateral summit, China's Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said after meeting him in Manila last week - just days after Mr Duterte met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Meetings during the Beijing visit will also discuss the Philippines' chairmanship of the 10-member Asean this year, the Department of Finance said in a statement yesterday, without elaborating further.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on Jan 11 that he was confident a code of conduct in the South China Sea between Asean and China could be finished by mid-2017.

Still, the Philippines did file a diplomatic protest with China over its installation last year of anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems on its man-made islands in the disputed waters.

At this week's meeting, Philippine and Chinese officials will flesh out some US$15 billion (S$21.4 billion) worth of investment pledges that China committed to Manila during Mr Duterte's visit in October, said the Department of Finance.

Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi is also in China to "enhance energy cooperation" between the two countries and attract investments in local energy projects, his office said in a separate statement.

Japan's Mr Abe, who wants to deepen ties with Mr Duterte amid a changing geopolitical landscape, has pledged US$9 billion worth of investment and development aid for the Philippines.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline Philippine ministers in China to boost trade. Subscribe