PGMA's Speech during the Philippines-China Economic Partnership Forum
Monday, June 05, 2006
Thank you very much.

Thank you very much, Secretary Peter Favila.

His Excellency President Ramos, chairman of the BOA forum, His Excellency Minister Bo Xilai, His Excellency Chinese Ambassador Lee, Assistant Minister, Speaker De Venecia, Secretary Romulo, Secretary Nery, delegates and participants in this very, very important Philippines-China Economic Partnership Forum, ladies and gentlemen.

In behalf of the Ffilipino people, welcome to the business and government delegations of the People's Republic of China. I am so happy that this very important forum is headed by the Honorable Minister of Commerce of China, Minister Bo Xilai. Aside from the fact that they have been saying here on stage that he looks like a movie star, it's always a pleasure for me to see Minister Bo Xilai, because I have known him since he was mayor of Dahlian and I was vice president of the Philippines.

And I am so happy to see such a big and important delegation on the occasion of friendship between our two countries and especially because I consider this forum as a fitting sequel to the historic visit of President Hu Jintao to the Philippines last year on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of our diplomatic relations with each other. It was a great honor for me to host that jubilee celebration after myself having made two state visits to China, but it was a very personal honor for me to host President Hu because more than thirty years ago, as co-chair of the association of our Philippines-China understanding, I was one of those civilians who worked for the establishment of our diplomatic relations.

Today, thirty years later, thirty-one years later from that time, China is at the center of world attention not only as the largest country in the world but also as the fastest growing economy and a leading player in the global regime. And we in the Philippines feel honored to be able to benefit from China's participation in world trade and the world economy.

We are neighbors. We have a long relationship that dates back to the ancient Chinese dynasties, and we have Francis Chua and the other leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community in the Philippines who are the leading players in our Philippine economy. All these factors are the basic determinants of our vibrant relations not only in trade but in every sphere that we can think of when two neighbors, two relatives, two old friends should have a relationship with each other.

When we met at the APEC Summit in Chile in 2004, that was the time when President Hu described our present relationship as having reached the "golden age." and there are so many manifestations of that golden age. Ever since China entered the WTO, China has become one of the biggest trading partners of the Philippines I understand that China trade with the Philippines is one of the fastest growing bilateral relationships of China. We have a satisfactory free trade agreement early harvest that was signed during the state visit of President Hu. And I am very grateful that we have in fact surpassed the levels of bilateral trade that we have set for ourselves.

Aside from trade, China has given meaningful support to the Philippines' development agenda with your assistance first in agriculture and then later on in the railroad to the north. And now we are forging strategic, long-term partnerships in mining and other sectors.

We have also charted a path-breaking and peace-building course for regional diplomacy in the South China Sea with the trilateral marine seismic undertaking of the Philippines, China and Vietnam.

Today, as you are back here honorable minister, as you are here honorable businessmen of China, I invite you to continue to invest in the Philippines. I would like to let you know that we are working to reform our regulating environment so that things can move faster in our bureaucracy. I would like to let you know that we are investing in modern infrastructure, not only the railroad to the north, but roads, ports, airports, expressways so that travel will be much faster among our key economic hubs. And we are investing to train our young people so that we have a business environment that is as competitive as any in the region.

I believe that we have already had many conversations about Chinese investments and where we would want them to go. Of course, we want you to go everywhere but we have some special invitations for you for some special areas. We have a number of priorities where we feel we could have a mutually beneficial relationship.

For instance, in agriculture where you have already been helping us for so many years. We are developing two million new hectares of land for agri-business, and we invite the Chinese business community to participate there.

And then there is tourism. China is our fastest growing market. The tourists from China who came last year were more than three times as many as the tourists who came the year before. And we hope that the business investments, the companies from China will invest in tourism facilities and projects that provide access like roads and airports.

There is also the area of infrastructure where we want to build roads and railroads and roll-on/roll-off ferries to make travel much faster in this second largest archipelago in the world.

And then there is mining. We have a reserve worth a trillion dollars. We are among the largest reserves in gold, in copper and in nickle. Our people are world class. Their skills are known in 140 countries and there is more of them right here in the Philippines. And so we believe that investments from china will also be very productive and profitable in skills-intensive industries like electronics, energy, shipbuilding and shipping, health and wellness, and jewelry.

Friends from the People's Republic of China, with your participation in these Philippine investment areas and other investments where you may wish to do your business supported by the skilled Filipino worker, I am very sure we should be able to drive up an even more mutually rewarding relationship between our two nations in this golden age of friendship between China and the Philippines.

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