Philippines wants more than spicy food from Sichuan

Jun. 07, 2007

CHENGDU CITY, China (via PLDT) — “We came not only for your delicious spicy food but also to build a warm relationship between our two economies and two people.”

Thus President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo set the tone of her two-day visit to China in her informal talk with Mayor Ge Honglin of Chengdu a “municipality” one-third the size of the Philippines — before addressing the Chengdu Business Forum at the Jinjiang Hotel before noon Wednesday.

Warm, indeed, was the reception given the visiting Philippine leader who was met by Chengdu the lady Vice-Mayor Zhao Xiao Wei at the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport and a little boy with a bouquet of beautiful blooms.

At lunchtime, Sichuan, Chengdus mother province, feted the President with a 20-course banquet spread on a giant round table at the center of the hotels ground floor. Onstage, a 10-woman mini orchestra serenaded the President with Chinese ditties and the Philippines own Leron, Leron, Sinta. Young Chengdu artists spiced up the entertainment fare with a display of various native dances.

Before the luncheon, which was hosted by the Sichuan officialdom led by Governor Jiang Jufeng, the President addressed the Chengdu Business Forum at the Brocade City Room of the Jinjiang Hotel right beside the VIP Room where Chengdu officials gathered in full force to listen to her conversation with Chengdu Mayor Honglin.

At their meeting, Mayor Honglin proposed to the President that the Philippine government establish a consulate in Chengdu, to which she readily acceded.

At the Business Forum, she said that her Chengdu trip, the first by a Philippine President to the Chinese city, was a rare opportunity for her to meet and exchange views with top officials of the metropolis on various issues. “Open dialogue and trust between peoples and nations has never been more important than in todays world,” she said.

“We welcome this opportunity to communicate with the people of Sichuan province in order to help forge stronger ties,” the President said, adding that Philippines-China relations are “at an all-time high, at a golden age.”

She pointed out that Philippine relations with China are now “more confident, mature, and comprehensive. They are punctuated with substantial and important projects aimed at deepening exchanges in a number of areas, including economics, trade and investment, and even defense.”

China is one of the Philippines top three trade partners.

The President cited four projects which she described as the “major landmarks” of Philippine-China relations. These are: 1) the Philippines-China Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Partnership Framework, 2) the Northrail from Manila “to my home province of Pampanga,” 3) the National Broadband Network projects in the Philippines “which is a very important backbone of our telecommunications infrastructure,” and (4) the continued regular exchanges of high-level visits between our two countries.

“We are delighted with China financing our Northrail and National Broadband Network projects,” the President said, pointing out that “transport and communication infrastructure development is crucial to our economic development plan for our nation.”

Sichuans New Hope group, which set up a $11-million feed factory along the MacArthur Highway in Pampanga three years ago, is set to expand its operations in the Philippines this year with an additional $7-million investment in new plants in San Simon, Pampanga, one in Isabela, and one each in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“We look forward to the day when Sichuan substantially raises the level of investments in the Philippines,” the President said, as she invited both landlocked city and province to invest more in “our archipelago with beautiful beaches.”

“Chengdu is an important market for fresh fruits, such as the famous Philippine mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and young coconut. Also for processed food such as dried fruits, nuts, fruit juices and puree, coconut products, canned fruit and frozen seafood like abalone,” she said.

On bilateral economic and trade relations, the President said, “we hope that both the Philippines and Sichuan should push to further deepen existing cooperation between the two economies.”

“We envision a day when Sichuanese and Filipinos are trading more with each other, investing more in each other, and visiting each other more,” she said.

The Philippines “offers one of the best values for Chinese investors,” the President told Sichuan officials and businessmen, being situated in a “strategic location in a fast-growing region. Our workforce is well-educated, productive and English speaking. We are cutting red tape to simplify the requirements for investing in the Philippines.” (OPS) (

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