PH – China ties to bring more jobs, investments, maritime hydro-carbon development; Road & Belt Initiative could re-open Manila-Acapulco galleon trade route

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By William Casis | FilAm Star Correspondent

President Rodrigo Duterte has asked for three to four years to solve graft, corruption and illegal drugs in the Philippines, saying he “would not allow the country to go to the dogs.”
Speaking before a crowd of Filipinos in Hong Kong Saturday last May 13, Duterte said he and his Cabinet are doing their best to encourage Filipino professionals working abroad to return
home and contribute to national and economic development.

“Give me time. Three to four year. Four years and we’ll really be okay.With that kind of situation, around three to four years, you could come home. Invest in some business,” he said.

He then told the overseas Filipino workers that they had an important role to play in eliminating corruption in the government by being assertive when dealing with corrupt officials.

Should the Philippines maintain its momentum, Duterte said, he sees the country stabilizing in three years to bring about better lives for Filipinos.

He also noted that improved relations between the Philippines and China could open doors to various investments that can generate more jobs.

He expressed optimism about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying that he expects something good to be gained from the two-day forum in Beijing.

“This is the strategy of President Xi Jinping for prosperity in this region,” he said.

At the Belt and Road Forum last May 14, the President’s special envoy, Jose de Venecia Jr., proposed the joint development of oil and natural gas by China and Southeast Asian nations in the disputed South China Sea.

“It is obvious as members of the Asean family that today, with China, we must find ways and means to jointly develop the area’s hydro-carbon potential to help lessen our common dependence on distant petroleum sources in the Middle East,” De Venecia said in the two-day event hosted by Xi.

De Venecia cited as a precedent the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), in which the Philippines, Vietnam, and China agreed to conduct joint explorations in the South China Sea.

The JMSU was signed by the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the early 2000s when De Venecia was speaker of the House.

Critics of the deal, however, criticized the JMSU for supposedly putting the Philippine government at a disadvantage since up to 80 percent of the JMSU site was inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

In 2008, a petition was filed against the JMSU before the Supreme Court.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana earlier said the Philippines should push for better trade with China “knowing the lessons of the Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking.”

De Venecia insisted, however, that joint development of the disputed area would turn the South China Sea into a “zone of friendship.”

“Look at the potential for peace, excellencies, for the economic development in the heartland of the South China Sea,” he said.

“Small sea ports, airports, oil pipelines, small tourism townships and fishing villages, in the spirit of the Silk Road, can rapidly rise in the contested areas once converted into a zone of friendship,” said De Venecia.

Toward the end of his speech, De Venecia also proposed the addition of a third route in China’s proposed 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, one of two components of the Belt and Road Initiative.

This third route would encompass the 250-year-old Manila-Acapulco galleon trade route. Such a route could expand the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to include Australia and Latin America, he said.

Duterte and his delegation were already in Beijing for the two-day Belt and Road Forum. However, he did not attend the opening ceremony where President Xi and other leaders gave speeches.

Duterte is accompanied by acting Foreign Affairs Sec. Enrique Manalo, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez, Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol, Public Works Sec. Mark Villar, Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello, and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana.

The President was also joined Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez, Tourism Sec. Wanda Teo, Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade, Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno, Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, and National Economic and Development Authority Dir. Gen. Ernesto Pernia.

Also part of the official delegation were Presidential Communications Sec. Martin Andanar, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Rep. Wesley Gatchalian, PNP Dir. Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa, and Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana.

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