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The Republic of the Philippines is an important partner for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). During an exclusive interview with China.org.cn, Philippine’s Ambassador to China, Mr. Jose Santa Romana talked about the opportunities offered by the initiative to Philippine’s economic and social development, and cooperation between China and Philippine.
China.org.cn: Welcome Sir, thank you very much for granting us this interview. When welcoming Philippines President Duterte at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May this year, President Xi Jinping observed that the Philippines is a friendly neighbor and important partner to China. So Sir, from your own perspective, what is the Philippines’ special role within the Belt and Road Initiative, and what should we do to achieve friendly, win-win cooperation and to eventually bring practical benefits to the peoples of our two countries?
Romana: Well, you hit the key point. We in the Philippines approach the Belt and Road Initiative from the point of view of how it will benefit, of course the Filipino people, and how it can benefit both the Chinese and the Filipino people, mutual benefit on the basis of sovereign equality. You see, we view the Belt and Road Initiative from the lens of convergence. The Belt and Road Initiative is a very broad concept, and from the Philippines’ point of view, we think there are areas of convergence, where the Philippine development plan, the government development plan, and the government priorities, where there are areas of convergence.
And we believe there’s also a broad area of convergence between the Belt and Road Initiative and ASEAN, on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Master Plan of Connectivity. So, because of this, we see that there are broad areas of possible cooperation that we can pursue.
And in this context, our interest is how we can leverage, you know, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Philippine Development Plan, the ASEAN Master Plan of Connectivity. How we can leverage this into concrete economic gains and projects, which will benefit not only China, the Philippines, and ASEAN, but all the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. The key point, however, the key emphasis is on connectivity, because this is where we see particular areas of interest. You know the infrastructure projects, there’s a great need for improving the infrastructure in the Philippines, there’s a great need of improving the infrastructure in Southeast Asia. And so this is an area where the interests are aligned, between China, the Philippines, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
China.org.cn: Thank you sir. As we know, with its unique geographical location, the Philippines is a very important node on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, so within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, what needs to be done to strengthen, you know, strategic docking and policy communication, and thereby eventually to enhance developments between our two countries, let’s say in the areas of infrastructure, trade, agriculture, tourism, and education?
Romana: Well, those are specifically the broad areas where there can be a lot of cooperative projects, where there can be avenues through which we can pursue more cooperation.
And the concept of the Maritime Silk Road goes all the way to the Indian Ocean. So, from our perspective, the most important point is how to promote a Silk Road that will promote, you know, freedom of navigation, and unimpeded access, and promote further trade among the different countries, further investment, tourism, and people to people exchanges.